Uganda loses 1.8 trillion shillings in a single year due to poor nutrition, according to a new study. Poor nutrition translates to higher risk for anemia, diarrhea, and respiratory infections among children under five and high costs of medical care, while in older citizens it contributes to poor performance in school, and later, reduced capacity in the labour market.
The study report was presented to the 6th annual Meeting for Ministers of Economy and Ministers of Finance and Economic Development, organized by the African Union Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
“The Cost of Hunger in Africa” study was led by the African Union Commission’s Department of Social Affairs under the Revised African Regional Nutrition Strategy 2005-2015 and emphasizes the understanding of nutrition as not only a social or health issue, but also an economic one.
Poor nutrition translates to higher risk for anemia, diarrhea, and respiratory infections among children under five and high costs of medical care, while in older citizens it contributes to poor performance in school, and later, reduced capacity in the labour market.
The preliminary results show that an estimated 975,000 Ugandan children are underweight, and in the last 5 years, 110,220 deaths related to under-nutrition were registered.
The study, conducted in Uganda, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Egypt, reveals that the worst nutrition cost is faced by Ethiopia, which loses 4.5 billion US dollars, with 3 million children under weight, and over 300, 000 deaths related to malnutrition in the last five years.
Regarding the effects of under-nutrition on education, the report indicates that in Uganda, children who are stunted have a 12.2 percent rate of repeating classes as opposed to 9.1 percent for well nourished children.
In the productive population (15 to 64 years), the study authors estimate that Uganda loses over 200 million shillings in incomes by stunted people of productive age.
The Ministry of Health Uganda Nutrition Action Plan 2011-2016 recognizes the contribution of good nutrition to the country’s development. Due to these effects, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) strategy in the action plan focuses on proper nutrition in the first one thousand days of life, as well as for women in the reproductive age bracket.
The action plan document states that Vitamin A deficiency affects one out of five children and leads to low resistance to illnesses such as eye infections. It also points out that iron deficiency affects three-quarters of children aged 6–59 months old and half of women of reproductive age.
With the pilot-country results, the report recommends, countries can take initiatives to cut down the cost of malnutrition. For instance, Uganda could save 2.8 trillion shillings through halving the cost of nutrition by 2025.