Rwanda: Malnutrition exposes African population to serious health risks - IFPRI

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) -  In spite of increased spending on social protection in many African countries, half of them still experience a level of malnutrition that constitutes serious public health risk, according to a new report published Thursday by the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

In the 2014 Global Nutrition Report, IFPRI said that faces of poor nutrition are many, ranging from skinny and bony children living under famine conditions to adults who have trouble breathing owing to obesity, to infants who die before their first birthday anniversary as a result of poor diets, poor infant feeding practices, and exposure to infectious disease.

With the current situation where another risk is that nutrition goals may get lost in a long list of wide-ranging aspirations, undernutrition has also lowered the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Egypt by 1.9%; Ethiopia 16.5%; Swaziland 3.1%; and Uganda 5.6% while Africa lost 11% of Gross National Product (GNP) owing to poor nutrition.

Although levels and trends in malnutrition indicators vary greatly across countries, the report showed listed Madagascar, Malawi and Uganda as African countries with weak coverage of basic nutrition specific interventions.

IFPRI found that many African countries are very weak on iron–folic acid supplementation for 90 days or more, seven countries were very weak on vitamin A supplementation, and nine were very weak on breastfeeding practices.

However, the report pointed out that for improvement in nutrition status, the focus on coverage of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes is still important on condition that vulnerable populations benefit from “effective coverage".

"This is because countries need to strengthen health, food, and water systems as well as focus on the effectiveness of programmes, on the design features that enhance impact, on the strategy and vision for scaling up, and on the capacities and resources needed for scaling up programmes," the report suggested.

Meanwhile, a senior research fellow with IFPRI, Lawrence Haddad told PANA in Kigali that malnutrition currently affects more than 2 billion people world wide and makes it harder to achieve the first target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs ) on poverty.

"This is because malnutrition means kids' brains develop sub-optimally, they learn less in school and earn less in the labour market," she said.

According to Haddad, integrating nutrition programmes with agricultural programmes has great potential to improve nutrition outcomes.

-0- PANA TWA/AR 13Nov2014

13 november 2014 18:08:20

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