Hunger Costs Rwanda US$820 Million Annually

At the launch of the Cost of Hunger in Africa study for Rwanda are, from left to right, WFP Country Director Jean-Pierre de Margerie, Rwandan Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho and African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Dr. Kaloko S. Moustapha .

A groundbreaking new study has revealed that the effects of hunger and undernutrition in Rwanda cost the country US$820 million (504 billion Rwanda francs) annually -- the equivalent of 11.5 percent of its annual GDP.

The report, called the Cost of Hunger in Africa, notes that Rwanda has made impressive progress in combating undernutrition, reducing the prevalence of underweight children significantly from 18 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2010. Rwanda has made also impressive progress in reducing stunting, though its current rate of 44 percent is still high, and there are more stunted children in Rwanda than 10 years ago.

The study found that 29 percent of Rwandan adults suffered from stunting as children, and child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced the Rwandan workforce by 9.4 percent. Find out more about hunger and its impact

The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) is a multi-country study aimed at estimating the economic and social impacts of child undernutrition in Africa. The COHA study is led by the African Union Commission (AUC) and NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, and is supported by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

“WFP will continue its partnership with the government of Rwanda and UN agencies to improve the nutritional status of mothers and children. Children will reach their full adult potential only if they receive proper nutrition, notably in the first 1000 days of life which offers a unique opportunity for mental and physical growth,” said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP’s country director.

12-country study

The COHA study is being carried out in 12 countries, including Rwanda as well as Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Swaziland and Uganda.

In Rwanda, the study has been implemented by the National Implementation Team (NIT) responsible for collecting, processing and presenting results. The NIT is chaired by the Ministry of Health (MINISANTE), and includes representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI, Co-chair), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), the National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR), the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MINAFFET) and the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC), as well as WFP and the multi-agency REACH partnership to combat child hunger and undernutrition.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa report for Rwanda recommends that both the causes and solutions of hunger be linked to social policies across numerous sectors in the country; reducing stunting will require interventions from different perspectives including health, education, social protection and social infrastructure.

The report also recommends an improved coordination and a comprehensive multi-sectoral policy in the country. There is a need to promote awareness about nutrition-- which remains limited across the whole population -- and promote the production and consumption of fortified complementary foods in those affected by micronutrient deficiencies and stunting.

Rwandan Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho underscored the significant results of the study and emphasized the need to prioritize the eradication of hunger and child undernutrition as a crucial goal for Rwanda. The minister of health added that the government was pleased to receive the report and will look to implement its recommendations. She said the government is going to include combating malnutrition in national strategies and encourage local leaders to include nutrition issues in their annual performance contracts.

The 12-country Cost of Hunger in Africa study is expected to provide compelling evidence for Africa’s policy makers to invest in nutrition and avoid unnecessary losses in human capital. The launch of the results of the Rwandan chapter of the study was attended by the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Dr. Kaloko S. Moustapha, who congratulated the government on a successful launch and commended national efforts to address nutrition issues within Rwanda’s “Vision 2020” development programme.

The results of the Cost of Hunger in Africa study for Rwanda can be found here.