Ghana's EconomyA new report by the United Nations concluded that widespread child under-nutrition has taken a toll on Ghana’s economy. The report, The Cost of Hunger in Africa: Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Ghana, found that the effects of hunger and stunting cost Ghana $2.6 billion dollars per year.

The report argues that Ghana’s government must make nutrition more of a priority in national development planning in order to improve food security.

Chronic malnutrition and stunting afflicts 19 percent of Ghana’s population and is responsible for 24 percent of all child mortality cases. Some areas face more hunger than others as 30 percent of children under five in Ghana’s northern region are stunted. Stunting occurs when adolescents are severely deprived of critical nutrients, such as proteins and minerals, while in the womb or during the first two years of life. According to the report, 37 percent of Ghana’s adult population suffered from stunting as children.

Malnutrition and stunting have significant long-term consequences on individual development and Ghana’s economy. Chronic health and food insecurity have resulted in higher health care expenses, additional burdens on the national education system and lower productivity by Ghana’s workforce.

The effects of stunting are also felt in Ghana’s educational system. Children who are underfed are more likely to miss, repeat classes and drop out of school. The report estimates that of the current working population aged 20 to 64, 72 percent of people who were stunted as a child completed primary school compared to 80 percent of those who were not stunted.

The report further says that repeating grades “increases the demand that the education system must meet, with the resulting costs in infrastructure, equipment, human resources and educational input.” In 2012, the 19,720 students who repeated a grade cost Ghana’s education system approximately $12.85 million.

Malnutrition also limits adults’ ability to work and contribute to Ghana’s economy. In manual work, such as agriculture, people affected by stunting lack the strength necessary to match the production and efficiency of individuals who are healthier. Non-manual workers who are stunted also produce less output because they received fewer years of schooling than people who were adequately nourished as children.

The U.N. recommends that the government invest more in nutrition policies and interventions to boost the overall health of Ghanaians. Better coordination among national agencies is necessary to create a more concerted approach to providing citizens with better nourishment.

The report notes that forging partnerships with private organizations and non-state actors will help the government “accelerate the development and implementation of malnutrition prevention strategies.”

Health officials can also raise more awareness about ways that people can improve their nutrition and health.

Sam Turken

Photo: Flickr

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The health concerns of undernutrition are evident. But a study conducted by the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) and the UN World Food Program (WFP), the African Union Commission, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has highlighted the economic consequences of the condition. The study incorporated data from 2009 provided by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAD), the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education in Egypt to delve into the less obvious penalties of child undernutrition.

The results of the study were published in a report titled “The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Egypt”. The report concluded that Egypt has lost an estimated 20.3 billion pounds in 2009, or $3.7 billion, as a result of child undernutrition.

Stunting, a condition of slowed or stopped growth in height, and chronic malnutrition were found to be the primary drivers behind Egypt’s undernutrition-based economic losses. Stunting occurs when children are not supplied the necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals from conception through age five. The condition affects 40 percent of Egypt’s population. Stunted individuals are prone to poor adult health, impaired academic performance, and premature death.

The costs are incurred as a result of mounting healthcare expenses and burdens placed on the education and labor systems. In rural Egypt, where the majority of people work manual labor, it is estimated that the decreased productivity caused by the lowered physical ability of adults who had been stunted as children resulted in a $10.7 billion loss in 2009. Healthcare costs equaled $1.2 billion in economic productivity lost.

31% of Egypt’s population is under the age of 15, which places the necessity for adequate child nutrition at a top priority; to thrive tomorrow, Egypt needs to address these threats today by achieving food security. Without discovering ways to prevent child undernutrition, the costs Egypt incurs could increase 32% by 2025. The IDSC plans to disclose the study’s findings and recommendations to decision-makers in an effort to reverse this downward trend.

Egypt is not the first country to conduct the Cost of Hunger in Africa study. Uganda has already carried out their own study, and the 10 more countries following suit will be Botswana, CameroonBurkina Faso, Malawi, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Swaziland.

Dana Johnson

Sources: Bloomberg, WFP
Photo: Blogsome