New Study Shows How Undernutrition Is Taking A Huge Toll On Burkina Faso’s Economy
The Cost of Hunger in Africa: The Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Burkina Faso report shows that the country loses significant sums of money each year as a result of child undernutrition through increased costs in healthcare and the associated cost due to the additional burdens to the education system and lower productivity by its workforce. The report estimates that child undernutrition cost the economy of Burkina Faso the equivalent of 7.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product each year.
The consequences of stunting are particularly of concern. Stunting (low height for age) occurs when children miss out on critical nutrients - including proteins, vitamins and minerals -- while in the womb and in the first two years of life. People affected by stunting face lifelong consequences starting in childhood such as frequent illness, poor school performance, having to repeat classes or dropping out altogether, and having low productivity at work.
The study shows that today there are more children suffering from stunting in Burkina Faso than there were 10 years ago. In addition, more than half of the country’s adult population was affected by stunting in their childhood. This represents over 4,743,580 people of working age who are not able to reach their full potential, as a consequence of undernutrition.
In rural areas of Burkina Faso, where the majority of the population is engaged in manual activities, it is estimated that CFA Franc 37,205 million (about US$73 million) were lost, due to the reduced productivity of those who were stunted as children. Infant mortality due to undernutrition also reduced Burkina Faso's workforce by 13.6 percent.
The Cost of Hunger study in Africa is a multi-country initiative led by the African Union Commission, under the coordination of the New Partnership for Africa (NEPAD), with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
"This study encourages Burkina Faso and its partners not to settle for an “acceptable” level of undernutrition. Burkina Faso needs to set very ambitious targets to reduce stunting that go beyond a relative reduction and reach the 10 percent target established for the Africa region,” said His Excellency the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso.
The launch of the Cost of Hunger report in Burkina Faso is an opportunity to draw the attention of development actors, technical and financial partners, and policy makers of the urgent need to allocate sufficient human and financial resources to fight against child undernutrition which undermines the country's development.
The Cost of Hunger in Africa is a 12-country study highlighting that undernutrition is not just a health issue, but a broader social and economic one as well, that requires multisectoral commitment and investment. As the series progresses it is becoming ever clearer how undernutrition is undermining African economies. The survey has been carried out in eight countries, including Burkina Faso.
The African Development Bank, the French Development Agency, the Office of the United Nations Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Rockefeller Foundation, and WFP, contributed financially to the realization of this study in Burkina Faso and in other selected African countries.
The reference year used for the Cost of Hunger in Burkina Faso study is 2012, the year with the most recent data available.
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Dr Janet Byaruhanga, Africa Union Commission/Addis Ababa, byaruhangaJ@Africa-union.org; +251 913118479 (cell)
Ms Mercy Wambui, Economic Commission for Africa/Addis Ababa; MWambui@uneca.org