Report reveals African countries fall short on nutrition

Report reveals African countries fall short on nutrition

9/11/18

Producing more food will not end global hunger. Rather, it will take better food. Healthier diets and sustainable production of fruits and vegetables is key to erasing the devastating effects of malnutrition and stunting, while creating a more stable world for the millions of women and children living in poverty.

However, a recent study by CARE and Graca Machel Trust found that many African governments are not allocating enough national resources to nutrition, further exacerbating stunting rates, global health, and national development in already uncertain times. The report makes clear that the costs of neglecting nutrition are high — economic losses, long-term physical and cognitive impairments,
and socio-economic impacts — and cannot be ignored by governments and world leaders.

Children eat in nutrition center in Africa

Nearly three million children under the age of five die from malnutrition each year, and in 2016, about one in four children under age five had stunted growth. CARE knows that poor nutrition early in a child’s life permanently impairs physical and cognitive development. As such, an emphasis must be put on the nutritional needs of women and children in the first 1,000 days, from a mother’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, to ensure the best possible development outcomes for a child. The report states that currently 14.8 million children under five years of age are stunted in the 9 countries under the study.

Results of the study, written by Vitumbiko Chinoko and Reginald Ntomba from CARE, showed that all nine countries in eastern and southern Africa — Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — failed to meet the Nutrition for Growth Summit recommendation of investing and spending $30 per child under five years of age from their own national resources. While South Sudan, Rwanda, and Malawi managed to meet the recommended target with the help of donor support, progress in reducing stunting rates in those countries is unsustainable given the heavy dependence on outside donors.

Donor support to on-budget funding for nutrition associated programs proved to be the highest in South Sudan, a country plagued by food insecurity following years of civil war. Malawi allocated the most to nutrition from national resources, at about 0.58 percent of the total national budget. The average allocation to nutrition as a share of the national budget across the nine countries was 0.45 percent.

Nutrition center in Africa Women listen to presentation at nutrition center.

 

How did we get here?

Hunger and malnutrition are not accidents — they are the result of systematic injustices, including gender inequities between men and women, that limit whether a person can access the resources and tools they need to feed themselves and their families. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that malnutrition has far-reaching consequences on the social and economic profile of countries. The economic costs of malnutrition represent losses of 11 percent gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investments for every $1 spent. That’s why CARE advocates for governments to adopt national nutrition strategies that are inclusive and financially feasible. 

Malnutrition in South SudanOne thing is clear: Swift action must be taken to eradicate malnutrition and feed a growing world. The underinvestment in per child spending compromises the fight against stunting by as much as 41 percent in some countries. Based on the findings, the report recommends the establishment of sustainable pathways to ensure governments take full responsibility for the nutrition agenda, including allocating and spending at least three percent of the national budget to nutrition. Additionally, governments must address nutrition from broader and deeper levels to tackle the underlying causes of malnutrition, including power imbalances between men and women and with small-scale farmers. The report further recommends the harmonized and well-coordinated planning at national level to ensure that agenda is addressed from a multi-sectoral angle and perspectives. improving nutrition is a imperative for sustainable social and economic development.

What now?

In the United States, CARE advocates for Congress to support the bipartisan Global Food and Security Act, which empowers small-scale farmers and women to gain access to nutritious food and to sustainably produce food in the future. The Global Food and Security Act was passed in July 2016, signifying America’s commitment to tackling global hunger, but must be reauthorized before September 30, 2018.

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