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Malnutrition in Ethiopia

Malnutrition has become a serious health issue, threatening the progress of developing countries across the entire world. According to WebMD, malnutrition means that a person is not receiving the correct amount of nutrients in their diet. Although the definition is simple, the effects of malnutrition are both severe and complex. Ethiopia is one of the many countries facing this dangerous health condition.

Malnutrition in Ethiopia affects the 2.7 million people who are acutely food insecure. According to USAID, being food insecure implies two meanings:  one, that these people do not have a stable access to food due to either manmade or natural conditions like droughts, and two, that they receive the most basic food needs through food or cash transfers.

Perhaps the worst part of this health issue is the effect malnutrition has on children. According to USAID, 44 percent of Ethiopian children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnourishment, also known as “stunting.” The World Food Programme’s “The Cost of Hunger in Ethiopia” report revealed that since a maximum of 81 percent of all the reported malnutrition cases go untreated, 28 percent of children younger than 5 die from malnourishment every year in Ethiopia alone.

Since malnourishment is a lifelong condition, it also affects the quality of education and productivity in countries like Ethiopia. “The Cost of Hunger in Ethiopia” report also proved that “stunting” causes approximately 16 percent of primary school grade repetitions. In addition, the amount of individuals in the workforce has decreased by 8 percent due to the high rates of child mortality.

Not only does malnutrition in Ethiopia threaten the lives of millions, it also keeps this country from escaping the cycle of poverty. According to the “Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative Multidimensional Poverty Index,” Ethiopia is the second poorest country in the world for the fourth year in a row. Child malnutrition alone costs the Ethiopian government about 5.5 million dollars every year, which is 16.5 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP.

Due to this ranking and the serious health effects of malnutrition, the government of Ethiopia has strived to make these issues a priority. In June 2013, the National Nutrition Plan for Ethiopia was launched to decrease the extensiveness of chronic malnutrition, wasting and malnourishment in women, particularly those who have reached a reproductive age. By achieving these three goals, Ethiopia hopes to address the country’s widespread food insecurity and save millions of lives by 2015.

Although Ethiopia is certainly not the only country affected, the amount of malnutrition in Ethiopia demonstrates how serious and widespread this issue has become. While Ethiopia strives to achieve these goals by the end of next year, it is important to look beyond 2015 and to continue progress ensuring that everyone lives a healthy life with the proper nutrients.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: USAID, World Food Programme, UNICEF, Somalilandpress, WebMD