By Abushedde Angella
An estimated 1.8 trillion Ugandan shillings is lost annually as a result of under nutrition according to the findings of a ground breaking study on the cost of hunger launched yesterday at Imperial Royale Hotel.
The study was conducted by the government of Uganda with the support of the African Union Commission including New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), United Nations Economics Commission for Africa and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
Other countries involved in the research include Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, Botswana, Ghana, Swaziland and Mauritania.
The research findings show that one out of three young children in Uganda are stunted and as many as 82% of cases of children under nutrition and its related illnesses go untreated.
The research highlights 54% of the adult population in Uganda as having suffered from under nutrition as children while 44% of the health costs associated with under nutrition occur before a child turns one year old.
“These are extremely worrying findings,” said Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who was the guest of honor at the ceremony. “They will guide the government of Uganda towards adopting policies that prevent unnecessary losses of human and economic potential.”
Sory Ouane, the WFP Country Director said economic growth alone was not enough to address stunting and other costly impacts of a poor diet in achieving the first Millennium Development Goals. “Uganda urgently needed to invest in nutrition–oriented measures and policies that would ensure critical economic savings at national and household levels,” he said.
When a person is stunted as a child, he or she will be less productive than non –stunted workers. Thus stunted people may be less able to contribute to the national economy. It is estimated that in 2009 alone, UGS 417 billion was not produced due to under productivity while 943 million working hours were lost due to people who were absent from the workforce as a result of nutrition-related mortalities.
Mbabazi pledged full government support to the campaign to eliminate malnutrition and that it is already moving to address the issue through sensitization of exclusive breastfeeding. He also said parliament is yet to pass the food and nutrition policy bill to scale up nutrition plans.