Hunger is the leading cause of child deaths in Africa, report says
A new report titled Child Hunger in Africa has identified hunger as the cause of half of the child deaths in Africa. This report by the Addis Ababa-based organisation African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), noted that 90% of all children in Africa are malnourished or undernourished.
It also noted that 60% of all African children do not eat as frequently as specified by the World Health Organisation(WHO). According to WHO, babies between eight and six months old should eat at least two meals a day while children between eight months and 23 months of age should eat three meals a day.
Why Hunger is killing 10,000 children every day
The report noted that hunger kills thousands of African children every day. 60% of these deaths are female.
In a twist, the report says that the problem of hunger is not due to poverty or lack of resources but it is a problem of policy and redistribution of resources.
According to the ACPF president Assefa Bequele:
“Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem. It is the offspring of the unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable and bad governance and economic mismanagement.”
The ACPF Programme Quality Manager Dr. Shimelis Tsegay had this to say to The Independent:
“Africa has seen rapid growth in the last two decades, but even if countries sustain economic growth, if they don’t put in place good pro-poor, pro-child and pro-women policies, the issue is not going to go away. Economic growth alone does not necessarily reduce child hunger.”
Nigeria and Mauritius are good examples of why policies affect child hunger
In the case of Nigeria, the GDP increases by 4% every year, yet a lot of Nigerian children are still stunted. Mauritius, on the other hand, has a lot of pro-women policies, which makes it one of the most child-friendly countries in the world.
Dr. Tsegay agrees with these findings:
“The moment countries adopt women-friendly policies, they will reduce the number of those who go hungry. Women need to be at the centre of the political agenda.”
The way forward
Dr. Tsegay thinks school feeding programmes can make a difference. He also thinks that the issue needs to be given a lot of awareness so that new, effective policies can be adopted.
On her part, the president of ACPF Ms. Bequele thinks the issue needs to be made an utmost priority. She also thinks that policymakers need to make it an important part of the political and economic agenda.
The report also noted that although the issue at hand is more of a humanitarian issue, governments need to address it because it slows down a country’s economic performance. The report noted that hunger slows down growth and causes people to be unhealthy and unproductive, which is why it can have an impact on the economy.
Another important cause of hunger is climate change. In the past few years, changes in climate and the resulting food insecurity led to food insecurity in 23 countries and affected about 39 million people.
As climate change usually leads to water scarcity, it is expected that water availability will continue to decline in Africa, making it difficult for agriculture to thrive.