With a population of nearly 35 million people, Afghanistan is the 39th most populated country in the world. Due to political instability, terrorism and economic insecurity, hunger in Afghanistan is now an extremely prevalent epidemic. Below are important facts about the state of malnutrition in Afghanistan and its possible future.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Afghanistan
- As of 2017, Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of almost 24 percent, ranking it as 194th out of 218 total countries. Additionally, 54 percent of its population falls below the poverty line.
- Afghanistan’s economy relies heavily on agriculture. About 23 percent of the country’s GDP consists of agriculture. Due partly to natural disasters such as localized floods, dry spells and widespread insect infestations, Afghanistan suffered from a food deficit. In fact, the 2017 crop harvest suffered a 1.5 million ton production deficit in comparison to the 2016 and 5-year average production rate.
- Afghanistan developed a high rate of childhood stunting, the impaired growth of a child as a result of malnutrition. In fact, the country has a 41 percent prevalence rate of moderate and severe stunting. Some consequences of stunting include poor cognition, excessive weight gain in later childhood and a higher chance of suffering from nutrition-related disease during adult life.
- Wasting is when an individual is considered too thin for their weight or height. It is the result of rapid weight loss or lack of weight gain. Wasting is of medium prevalence in the country of Afghanistan. In fact, between 5 and 10 percent of children in Afghanistan suffer from wasting.
- Breastfeeding is extremely beneficial to the growth and development of a child as breast milk meets all the nutritional needs of an infant during the first six months of life. However, only 41 percent of newborns infants receive early initiation of breastmilk in Afghanistan. This trend does not become better as time goes on, as 43 percent of Afghan children are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life.
- Iodine is a mineral found only in a few foods. However, it is necessary for the body to produce thyroid hormones, which in turn regulate the body’s metabolism. Therefore, many meet their recommended amount of iodine by consuming iodized salt, which is salt fortified with iodine. However, only 57 percent of households in Afghanistan consume iodized salt – putting much of the population at higher risk for iodine deficiency disorder.
- Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks healthy red blood cells capable of carrying oxygen to tissues throughout the body. It is commonly caused by the lack of essential nutrients, such as iron, folate and vitamin B-12 in the body. One in three Afghan girls suffers from anemia. Prolonged anemia can result in severe fatigue, heart problems and pregnancy complications.
- Vitamin A consists of a group of fat-soluble retinoids necessary for immune function, vision, reproduction and cell communication. Vitamin A deficiency is highly prevalent in Afghan children aged six to 59 months. However, due to the implementation of widespread nutrition programs, 98 percent of the Afghan population now supplements for vitamin A.
- In response to the spread of malnutrition throughout the country, Afghanistan joined the Scaling Up Nutrition movement (SUN). In addition to 59 other countries, Afghanistan will work in a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder space in order to end malnutrition.
- By putting an end to hunger in Afghanistan, the country stands to gain other enormous benefits as a well-nourished individual tends to complete more years of school and learn better. Therefore, by reducing malnutrition, Afghanistan will be able to see a boost in its economy, growth and development.
– Shreya Gaddipati