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Child Nutrition Malnutrition taking a toll on Ghana's economy

The study led by the African Union and backed by U.N. aid agencies and the African Development Bank said consequences of stunting are of particular concern.

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The study led by the African Union and backed by U.N. aid agencies and the African Development Bank noted consequences of stunting (low height for age) are of particular concern. play

The study led by the African Union and backed by U.N. aid agencies and the African Development Bank noted consequences of stunting (low height for age) are of particular concern.

The Ghanaian economy is losing some GHC4.6 billion due to the effects of malnutrition, a new study has shown.

The cost to the Ghanaian economy constitutes 6.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The report, "The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition on Ghana’s Long-Term Development (COHA)," noted that additional cost is being incurred through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens on the education system and lower productivity by its workforce.

The study led by the African Union and backed by U.N. aid agencies and the African Development Bank said consequences of stunting are of particular concern.

It said stunting occurs when children miss out on critical nutrients -- including proteins, vitamins and minerals -- while in the womb and in the first two years of life. This is compounded by diseases and poor hygiene practices. People affected by stunting face lifelong consequences starting in childhood such as frequent illness, poor school performance, having to repeat classes or dropping out altogether, and low workplace productivity.

“The goal of eliminating stunting is key to achieving Zero Hunger, Sustainable Development Goal 2,” said Thomas Yanga, Director of the World Food Programme Africa Office in a statement. “The losses to the economy can be averted through strategic interventions which ensure adequate nutrition for mothers and young children.”

The study acknowledged Ghana's effort at improving child nutrition over the past two decades, reducing chronic malnutrition or stunting from 23 to 19 percent. However, this study highlights the critical need for further progress.

Among other findings, the COHA report reveals that:

•    37 percent of the adult population in Ghana suffered from stunting as children;
•    24 percent of all child mortality cases in Ghana are associated with undernutrition;
•    child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced Ghana’s workforce by 7.3 percent.

Stunting is not just a health issue, it needs to be addressed through a multi-sectoral approach and prioritised in all development programmes from community to national level, WFP said in a statement.

"In northern Ghana, 30 percent of children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished," said WFP deputy regional director for West and Central Africa, Margot van der Velden.

"This not only affects their growth but also their educational development and economic potential, and consequently the future of the country," she added in a statement.

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