Poverty and hunger in Ghana pose present significant issues that harm millions of people in the country. With an estimated 24.2% of the population living below the poverty line on less than $1.90 a day, poverty in Ghana remains a persistent issue that impacts access to food, education and the necessary resources to live a healthy and fulfilling life. A common experience that results from living in extreme levels of poverty in Ghana and across the entire continent of Africa is hunger. The continent lacks food sovereignty. What this means is that most countries in Africa depend on other nations and imported resources to feed themselves. During a three-day Feed Africa Summit in January 2023, a conference held to find solutions to the hunger crisis in Africa, the African Development Bank Group chief stated that an estimated 283 million African people experience hunger daily.
Malnutrition in Ghana
Many countries that experience high levels of hunger also experience malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when the body is missing the required nutrients or when it has more than it needs. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that malnutrition accounts for nearly half of all deaths among children under 5 years old. This is true in the case of Ghana where, in 2019, an estimated one in every ten children under 5 years old were underweight, with many not having access to diverse food groups that contain vital nutrients for physical development.
The Impact of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
While Ghana is already a historically impoverished nation, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a very negative economic impact on the country and the entire continent of Africa. One way in which the war has negatively impacted the continent is the rising price of food. These food prices are the result of African communities being dependent on imported goods from Russia and Ukraine, specifically wheat and sunflower products. In many regions of West Africa from 2019 to 2022, the percentage of people struggling with food insecurity rose from 10.7 million to 40.7 million.
The issue of an increasing number of individuals experiencing crisis is only expected to get worse as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues. This is due to agricultural activities being on hold, thereby stopping the exportation of goods that Ghana depends on. Beyond the Russia-Ukraine conflict impacting hunger in Ghana, there is also the issue of climate change that impacts the rain-fed crops which the country relies on.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) uses food assistance to save lives during emergencies. Since its establishment in 1961, the organization has helped millions of people across different countries to achieve greater levels of food security. In Ghana, WFP focuses on preventing a specific form of malnutrition known as stunting. Stunting occurs when growth is hindered due to poor nutrition. To address this issue, WFP in Ghana provides aid to pregnant women and children aged 6 months to 2 years, recognizing the first 1,000 days of life as the most critical period for establishing proper nutrition and laying a foundation for healthy growth.
The organization offers assistance to those in need by providing vouchers to mothers, enabling them to purchase nutritious food that might otherwise be inaccessible. Moreover, they collaborate with private organizations and government agencies to establish food supply chains and connect small farmers with larger processing firms. In addition, they have implemented a nationwide school feeding program that connects children with nutritious food at school, linking it directly to local agriculture.
The WFP, through its efforts, is working to combat malnutrition and promote food security in Ghana. While food insecurity is still a problem in the country, every step toward progress in the fight against it represents hope for Ghanaians.
– Kellyjohana Ahumada