The Cost of Hunger in Africa: The Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Malawi
The Cost of Hunger in Africa (CoHA): The Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Malawi report shows that the country loses significant sums of money each year as a result of child undernutrition through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and lower productivity by its workforce. It estimates that child undernutrition cost Malawi 10.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2012 (most recent year with complete data).
The 12-country, government-led study is commissioned by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s Planning and Coordinating Agency and supported by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN World Food Programme. The study's model estimates the additional cases of illness, death, school repetitions, school dropouts, and reduced physical productivity directly associated with those suffering undernutrition before the age of five. Based on data from each country, the model then estimates the associated economic losses incurred by the economy in terms of health, education, and potential productivity in a single year. So far, it has been conducted in six countries in Africa including Malawi.
Some key findings to emerge from the study in Malawi reveal that:
- 60 percent of adults suffered from stunting as children. This represents some 4.5 million people of working age who are not able to achieve their potential as a consequence of child undernutrition.
- Undernutrition was associated with 23 percent of all child mortalities in Malawi. This represented some 81,800 child deaths in 2012. Child undernutrition was estimated to generate health care costs equivalent to MWK 11.4 million (US$ 46 million).
- In Malawi, where two thirds of people are engaged in manual activities, it is estimated that in 2012 alone, MWK 16.5 billion (US$67 million) were lost due to the reduced productivity of those who were stunted as children.
Overall, the Cost of Hunger in Africa study serves as an important tool to show how undernutrition is not just a health issue, but an economic and social one as well that requires multi-sectoral commitment and investment. It reinforces the critical need to prioritize nutrition in the national development agenda.