Nutrition experts warn that if African countries do not gear up efforts in eliminating hunger, countries will continue to lose parts of their Growth Domestic products (GDP).
Experts were speaking last week during Eastern Africa Parliamentarian dialogue on Food and Nutrition Security in Kigali.
The meeting converged parliamentarians from eight countries of Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan.
According to Tanimoune Mahamadou, the nutritionist at World Food Programme, the study on the cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA), for instance estimates social and economic impacts related to children under-nutrition to African countries’ GDP including those in Eastern African region.
“The study shows that in Rwanda, 21.9 per cent of child mortality and 13.5 per cent of school repetition are associated with stunting while 49 per cent of working age populations suffered from stunting as children. These and other issues caused by hunger trigger 13.5 per cent loss of GDP,” He said.
In Uganda, he explained, 15 per cent of child mortality and 7 per cent of school repetition is associated with malnutrition while 33.4 per cents of adults suffered from the same issue through their childhood all which among others cost UG1.9 trillion to GDP which is 5.6 per cent of GDP.
The nutrition expert also says the study revealed that Ethiopia loses ETP40 billion (11.5%) of GDP as 24 per cent of child mortality and 4 per cent of school repetition are associated with stunting.
Mahamadou said that the annual cost associated with malnourished children is estimated at 1.9 per cent to 16.5 per cent of GDP in the whole continent.
“The study tells us that 8 to 44 per cent of all child mortality is associated with under-nutrition in Africa; between one to 18 per cent of repetition in schools are associated with stunting,” he said adding that eliminating hunger is key for inclusive development because if we invest USD1 in nutrition, it yields USD16 in returns.
Angela Kimani , the nutrition officer at FAO sub-regional resilience team for East Africa said there has been reduction in malnutrition but there are 36.5 million people in food security crisis compared to 30 million a year ago as measured by The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPCphase3).
“We have to put people at the heart of agriculture to address food insecurity,” she said.
The food crisis is mainly due to adverse climatic conditions, a slow global economy and conflicts as key factors driving food insecurity in the region according to the FAO Report 2017.
Speaking during the dialogue , Rwanda MP’s speaker Donatille Mukabalisa said that there is a need to boost agriculture technologies to end poverty and hunger as agriculture is the milestone to the economy .
“In developing countries, we need right mechanisms, technologies as well as investments in addressing issue of hunger. Small holder farmers need to access to financial services, technical training so that they be able to make improved crop intensification, irrigation … There is a need to empower youth and women in agriculture since they are the ones dealing day-to-day with hunger in the families,” she said.
Parliamentarians said with ensured access to sufficient food to all people at all times, decision makers need timely accurate information on effects of unexpected changes such as climate change, animal and plants pests and diseases, youth unemployment, conflicts, refugees that can trigger food insecurity.
Hon.Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, the chairperson of Rwanda Parliament’s Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment said parliamentarians play critical in ensuring right legislation is put in place for the realization of right to access to adequate food and sustainable improvement in nutrition.
“MPs also monitor the implementation of related laws, policies, budget spending and the allocation of budgets so they impact on citizens,” she said.
She said 16 per cent of Rwanda budget in 2017/18 fiscal year was allocated to agriculture as there is a target of food availability of 2,500 Kcal per capital per one day by 2022.