Health News of Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Mr Ismail Omer, Country Director for World Food Programme, has called for the need to improve the nutritional status of people as it had a direct impact on economic performance of many countries.
He said investing in the nutritional needs and achieving food security was one of the prerequisite to attaining all the Millennium Development Goals adding that investments in nutrition makes political, economic and social sense.
Mr Omer, who was speaking during the launch of the Cost of Hunger Study in Africa (COHA) project in Accra on Wednesday, urged governments, development partners and the general public to understand the consequences associated with failing to eradicate under-nutrition.
“If we understand, we would all make better choices at both the national and international levels to ensure that young children do not suffer from hunger in Ghana or in Africa”, he stated.
COHA was developed by the African Union Commission and supported by the Economic Commission for Africa and the World Food programme to estimate the economic impact of child under-nutrition on health and education, and losses in productivity.
The aim is to generate evidence to inform key decision makers and the general public about the price Africa would have to pay for not addressing the problem of malnutrition.
The COHA study will increase the understanding of the consequences of child under -nutrition by estimating its social and economic costs on health services, educational achievement and national productivity.
Mr Omer expressed optimism that the COHA would spur national action to break the cycle of child under-nutrition and also serve as an advocacy tool for creating policy frameworks to address hunger-induced human capital and economic losses to the continent.
He Omer expressed concern about the consequences of malnutrition in children as they were profound, far-reaching and irreversible.
“When children are deprived of the essential nutrients required especially during the first 1000 days of their lives, they suffer permanent and irreversible physical and mental damage which causes them to perform more poorly than their well nourished counterparts in school”, he said.
He urged members of the National Implementation Committee (NIT) who have been tasked to implement the COHA project in Ghana to work hard to complete the study within the time frame, in order to inform all of the social and economic consequences of hunger and malnutrition in the country.
In all participating countries, the study is being implemented at country level by National Implementation Teams (NITs) made up of members from the Ministries of Health, Education, Social Development, Planning and Finance, as well as National Statistics Institutions.
Mr Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, Deputy Minister of Health, who launched the programme, lauded Ghana for being one of the first countries in Africa to reduce the number of hungry people significantly over the past two decades.
He said malnutrition in the form of stunted growth affects 28 percent of children under five years, thereby making one out of every three Ghanaian children under five stunted.
Mr Mettle-Nunoo said stunting and hunger were very destructive and costly to national economies as they impacted negatively on the development of brains and impairs learning among children.
“Under-nutrition as we know also contributes to low productivity in adults and presents reproductive challenges in women as well”, he said.
He said COHA would determine the total cost burden of hunger and work with policy makers to determine strategies to reduce its impact.
“It is important we are able to determine the cost of impaired educational outcomes that scientific research has linked to children not getting appropriate nutritious food to eat, and the bill for mental and physical illnesses that are linked to inadequate nutrition and juxtapose these cost against cost of ending hunger and preventable diseases”, he said.
The study was initiated in four pilot countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Uganda and would be followed by eight additional roll-out countries including Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, and Rwanda.
The study offers participating countries the opportunity to develop national capacities in cost analysis and make country-specific adaptations and effectively illustrate the economic cost of child under-nutrition.