“Child hunger must be a priority in Africa” – The Charleston Chronicle
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire correspondent
Economic growth in Africa has been impressive, but a sad reality remains: however prosperous, the results have had little impact on child nutrition.
Graça Machel, the widow of former South African president and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, said hunger was the “most acute problem facing children in Africa”.
“About 60 million children across the continent suffer from it. Not the mildly uncomfortable hunger that comes from skipping the occasional meal, but the permanent and relentless malnutrition, stunting and wasting,” said HE Machel, a child rights activist who chairs the board. of the Africa Child Policy Forum.
[Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation].
Two years ago, 28 African countries were dependent on food aid, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – or FAO.
According to the FAO, one of the worst hunger crises in the last 25 years was the famine in East Africa in 2011/12.
In war-torn Somalia, 260,000 people died of starvation, including 133,000 children under the age of five.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also a hotbed of chronic hunger due to extreme poverty, FAO said.
The organization notes the definition of chronic hunger: People are chronically hungry if their daily energy intake for an extended period of time is less than they would need to lead a healthy, active life.
The lower limit is an average of 1,800 calories per day.
According to this measure, 226.7 million people die of hunger in Africa.
The countries most affected by extreme poverty and hunger in Africa are mainly those located south of the Sahara.
One in four people there suffer from hunger – meaning that the share of the world’s hungry is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the FAO.
In the sub-Saharan region, 40-50% of people live below the poverty line, which means that they have a daily income of less than $1.25 on average.
This means that sub-Saharan Africa, together with South Asia, is one of the poorest regions in the world.
HE Machel said it need not be so.
“As African governments decide where to spend their money, they must remember that there is a strong economic case for reducing child hunger,” wrote HE Machel in an op-ed in the Financial Times.
“For every dollar invested in stunting reduction, there is a return of around $22 in Chad, $21 in Senegal, and $17 in Niger and Uganda,” she said.
The benefits are even higher if the investment is made early in a child’s life, ranging from $85 in Nigeria to $60 in Kenya.
Halving child stunting rates by 2025 could result in average annual savings ranging from $3 million in Swaziland to $376 million in Ethiopia, according to the FAO.
“Africa’s economic growth over the past two decades has been impressive, but it has had little impact on child hunger,” said HE Machel.
“Despite an average annual growth of 2% in gross domestic product in Kenya, stunting has increased by 2.5%. And in Nigeria, an average annual growth of 4% has not resulted in any reduction in stunting,” she said.
Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem, the result of an unholy alliance of political indifference, irresponsible governance and economic mismanagement, HE Machel concluded, noting that the continent’s food system is broken.
“Increased food production has not led to better diets…supply chains are not suited to serve rapidly expanding urban populations and the rural poor,” said HE Machel.
“Agricultural economic growth targets encourage the production of major grains – often for export – instead of more nutritious foods like pulses, fruits and vegetables,” she said.