The cost of hunger in Ethiopia

Implications for the Growth and transformation of Ethiopia

 Last month a study called “The Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Egypt, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Uganda”, and led by the African Union Commission (AUC) and NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and supported by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the UN World Food Program (WFP) was launched in Addis Ababa. This multi-country study was conducted aimed at estimating the economic and social impacts of child undernutrition in Africa, according to the document. As is the case with the two countries surveyed the cost of hunger in Ethiopia revealed staggering numbers of later age impacts of child undernutrition.  For example, the expected grade level achieved by a stunted person is lower than the expected schooling for a person who did not suffer from childhood growth retardation, showing the degree in which stunting affects the income earning capacity of an individual; and the total losses in productivity for the year 2009 are estimated at US$ 4.7 billion, or approximately ETB 53.6 billion, which is equivalent to 16% of Ethiopia’s GDP. The study shows the impact of childhood hunger that spans in the life of a child from his education to his health and his capacity to develop his cognitive skills. If anything, the result shows “eliminating stunting in Ethiopia is a necessary step for its growth and transformation.”

 The real cost of hunger

 Today, more than two out of every five children in Ethiopia suffer from stunting, which means they’re short for their age. Stunting is a lifelong condition that results when children miss out on critical nutrients while in the womb or during the first five years of their lives.

As many as 81% of all cases of child undernutrition and its related pathologies go untreated.

44% of the health costs associated with undernutrition occur before the child turns 1 year-old.

28% of all child mortality in Ethiopia is associated with undernutrition.

16% of all repetitions in primary school are associated with stunting

Stunted children achieve 1.1 years less in school education.

Child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced Ethiopia’s workforce by 8%

67% of the adult population in Ethiopia suffered from stunting as children.

The annual costs associated with child undernutrition are or estimated at Ethiopian birr (ETB) 55.5 billion, (US$ 4.7 billion ) which is equivalent to 16.5% of GDP.

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