Cotonou- Benin (PANA) -- The minister of health in Benin, Yvette Céline Kandissounon on Monday described malnutrition in sub- Saharan Africa as a public health problem when she addressed the opening of the 9th annual forum of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on nutrition and HIV/AIDS.
She cited that in sub-Saharan Africa malnutrition is characterised by a predominance of nutritional deficiencies whose consequences will impact negatively on education, productivity, but above all, on health and the survival of vulnerable groups like children and women.
"Malnutrition affects a large proportion of our sub-region and has serious consequences on populations, mainly women and children," she said, indicating that in sub-Saharan Africa malnutrition kills more than 200,000 women and children yearly.
Quoting the report on the nutritional situation worldwide published in 2004, Kandissounon lamented that Africa is the only continent that is unlikely to reach the Millennium Development Goal which consist in halving by 2005 the current level of under- nutrition among children below 5 years of age.
"The continuous degradation of the nutritional situation in the African region is unacceptable and constitutes a concern for our governments," she insisted.
"To fight malnutrition, African states must now redirect their agricultural policies to modernise the processing and distribution of food and reduce HIV/AIDS rate to increase the rate of economic growth," Kandissounon emphasised.
"In Benin, three out of every ten children suffer from retarded growth and 11 percent of them have severe growth retardation", according to a national demographic and health survey conducted in 2001.
The survey indicates that 8 percent of children are skinny while 11 percent of women have energy deficiency.