Hunger and malnutrition, especially among children, cost Ghana over GH¢4.6 billion in 2014, representing 6.4 percent of the country’s GDP, a recent study has found.
The study, entitled, ‘The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA),’ was conducted by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) as part of the AU’s initiative.
Ghana has recently adopted several long term development plans, namely the African Union’s economic development agenda.
The country hopes to use the agenda to transition from a lower-middle income country to a high-income country by 2057.
Owing to the fact that the country loses billions of dollars annually due to hunger, Dr. Nii-Moi Thompson, Director-General of the NDPC, said that the report was essential in showing the government that combating hunger must be prioritized if socio-economic development was to be achieved.
“There are a number of factors responsible for placing food and nutrition security on the front burner in our development as a nation,” he said.
“These include the necessity to harness Ghana’s demographic dividend through the creation of a large middle-class which is healthy, well educated and technologically driven.”
Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa, Commissioner of the NDPC’s Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, said one of the major issues to combating hunger in Ghana is the lack of effective government funding and support.
He explained that it is difficult for leaders to invest in initiatives that combat hunger because the results are less visible and slow to surface than constructing a new school.
But according to Prof. Akosa, there are substantial gains to be made from investing in quality nutrition.
He said for every USD $1 invested in ending hunger, there is a USD $16 return.
The report showed that hunger and malnutrition in children was especially harmful to Ghana’s social and economic development.
Families and hospitals have to pay extra costs to treat illnesses in children associated with malnutrition; the children themselves have trouble in their development stages which could cause health problems as they age.
The report found that malnourished children attended a year less of school than sufficiently nourished students. The end result, the report found, was that these children referred to as ‘stunted children’ in the report became adults who do not have the health or education to be successful adults.
Margaret Agama-Anyetei, Head of Division, Health, Population and Nutrition in the African Union, said that more than 5.5 million adults in Ghana, or 37 percent of the working population, were stunted as children.
She warned that if the same proportion of children continue to be stunted early in their lives, it would be difficult for the country to achieve development.
The number of stunted children was declining on the global scale, Agama-Anyetei said, decreasing from 225 million children in the 1990s to 159 million in 2014.
She said that West and Central Africa have seen a rise in stunted children which increased from 19.9 million to 28 million.
The report highlighted key areas that the government, as well as, private sector groups should focus on tackle hunger.
It found that children under the age of 24 months account for 51 percent of health costs associated with malnutrition
Source: Daily Guide