Chad’s economy is losing 575.8 billion CFA francs ($1.2 billion) per year, or 9.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), to the effects of childhood under-nutrition and resultant increased healthcare costs, additional burdens on the education system and lower productivity by the workforce, a new United Nations backed study has revealed.
A report released on Wednesday, ‘The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Under-nutrition on Chad’s Long-Term Development, (CoCHA)’ found that more than half of the country’s adults (56.4 per cent) have suffered as a result of childhood stunting.
This means that more than 3.4 million people of working age are unable to reach their full potential due to childhood under-nutrition.
The study equates this lower physical capacity to 63.7 billion CFA worth of loss in economic productivity, as well as 168.6 billion CFA in additional health costs.
“Africa, and Chad in particular, has the potential to reap a demographic dividend from a young, educated and skilled workforce,” said Dr. Margaret Agama-Anyetei, Head of the African Union’s Division for Health, Nutrition and Population in a joint news release.
“But,” she warned, “this potential can only be harnessed if the gains of early investments in the health and nutrition of its people, particularly women and children, are maintained and result in the desired economic growth.”
COHA is a Pan-African initiative led by the African Union Commission and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, with support from the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The approach was adapted from a model developed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean with WFP.
The report is the ninth to be completed in Africa. Others include Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland and Uganda.
Studies are also currently under way in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
On average, COHA has found that African economies are losing between 1.9 and 16 per cent of their GDP to child under-nutrition.
To counter this loss and for Chad to achieve sustainable human and economic growth, the report urges that special attention be given to the early stages of life.
A lack of measures to combat and eliminate childhood under-nutrition will only escalate the country’s costs.
“The study provides us with compelling evidence of the consequences of child under-nutrition, as well as the justification to increase investment in nutrition and the potential economic returns if we are to take aggressive measures towards eliminating stunting,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Country Director of WFP Chad.
COHA’s study provides some of the information necessary to empower Chad to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As Thomas Yanga, WFP’s Africa Office Director and Representative to the African Union and Economic Commission for Africa said in a statement on behalf of WFP and ECA: “The goal of eliminating stunting, and more broadly of eliminating hunger, will be achieved only through a sustained and coordinated effort.”