**Seeks Support, Investment to Fight Chronic Malnutrition
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The results of a new Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study indicate that Madagascar’s economy loses $1.5 billion per year – the equivalent of 14.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – to the effects of malnutrition.
The COHA study is a project led by the African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), developed with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The findings highlight the extent of social and economic losses caused by child malnutrition in a given country.
Mrs Hawa Ahmed Youssouf, the African Union Commission Representative in Madagascar, today officially presented the study report to the Prime Minister and Head of Government of Madagascar, Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana.
During the ceremony held in Antananarivo, the Prime Minister expressed his concern about the alarming levels of chronic malnutrition in the country. In Madagascar, 47 percent of children under the age of five are affected by stunting (low growth for age).
“Madagascar has the fifth highest rate of stunting in the world,” said the Prime Minister. “The results of the Cost of Hunger study confirm the urgency of mobilizing more resources and investment to reduce the level of malnutrition and its impact. This is one of the priorities of the National Development Plan. I call on our multi-sectoral partners to join us in this endeavor.”
Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the COHA study in Madagascar was conducted by the National Implementation Team (composed of 14 agencies and ministries) with the support of the United Nations and financial partners.
“The study aims to enhance African governments’ awareness of child malnutrition and of the fact that this is not only a health and social issue, but one of major economic concern,” said Mrs Youssouf. “The African Union supports this initiative in Madagascar because we know that the government is committed to fighting malnutrition.”
Madagascar is the tenth country in Africa to have conducted the COHA study, after Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda and Swaziland. The process has revealed that African economies are losing between 1.9 and 16.5% of GDP to child malnutrition.
The official launch of the Madagascar report was followed by a presentation of the ‘MIARO’ integrated project on nutrition and maternal and child health, which aims to prevent chronic malnutrition among children aged 6 to 23 months and pregnant and nursing women, while improving women’s access to reproductive health services in the south of the country.
The COHA launch comes as the south of Madagascar suffers the effects of drought, exacerbated this year by the El Niño weather event.
In November, WFP assisted one million people through general food distributions, cash transfers and nutritional support for the prevention and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition.
WFP’s ability to maintain this level of assistance over coming months will depend on the availability of funding for its operations.
Malnutrition is a condition resulting from nutrient deficiencies often associated with food insecurity, poor health, poor hygiene and sanitation, and poverty.
It should be noted that in Madagascar, in spite of the climactic challenges, particularly in the south, food is available in the markets.
However, access to it is often an issue because of the high levels of poverty among more vulnerable households.
Another factor is that good nutritional practices are not yet sufficiently established among the population.
In Madagascar, 47 percent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition (or stunting).
About 9 percent of children under 5 years of age across the country suffer from acute malnutrition (or wasting), although the southern part of the country is more severely affected with frequent spikes in malnutrition rates.
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