Child hunger in Ghana costs billions to manage, says UN

2 Aug 16

Child hunger costs Ghana some $2.6bn every year, equivalent to 6.4% of the country’s GDP, a report from the United Nations has found.


The study, published today, estimates the amount of money the country loses each year due to child under-nutrition, based on the increased costs in healthcare and education and reduced workforce productivity.

In particular it looks at the costs related to stunting, a condition caused by inadequate nutrition, especially in early life, and compounded by related factors such as chronic or recurrent infections. Stunting often results in below average height and impaired cognitive development. 

“People affected by stunting face lifelong consequences starting in childhood, including frequent illness, poor school performance, having to repeat classes or dropping out altogether, and lower workplace productivity,” the report says.

More than a third (37%) of Ghana’s adult population suffered from stunting in childhood and almost a quarter of child deaths in the country are associated with under-nutrition, reducing Ghana’s workforce by 7.3%, the study reveals.

But Thomas Yanga, director of the World Food Programme’s Africa office, said the negative impact poor nutrition in childhood can have on people’s lives and the related economic losses can be “averted through strategic interventions”.

Ghana has made some progress on child nutrition in the past two decades, during which stunting has been reduced from 23% to 19%.

However, the UN said much more needs to be done. It stressed that stunting is not only a health issue, and needs to be addressed by a multi-sectoral approach and prioritised in all development programmes from the community to national level.

It warned of the “huge losses” to the economy if reductions in chronic malnutrition are not accelerated.

Margot Vanderheen, WFP deputy regional director, said the study should serve as an “advocacy tool to convince governments and development partners to increase investment in child nutrition in order to achieve broader social and economic goals”.

She stressed that the issue of child hunger spreads beyond Ghana, with many countries in West Africa, particularly those in the Sahel region, facing recurrent food security and nutritional crises every year. 

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