News / Africa

Hunger Costs Ethiopian Economy Billions Of Dollars

A mother quenches her child's thirst while waiting for food handouts at a health center in drought-stricken remote Somali region of Eastern Ethiopia, also known as the Ogaden, July 9, 2011.
A mother quenches her child's thirst while waiting for food handouts at a health center in drought-stricken remote Somali region of Eastern Ethiopia, also known as the Ogaden, July 9, 2011.
Lisa Schlein
Hunger costs Ethiopia billions of dollars in yearly economic losses, according to a new study.  Led by the African Union Commission, the UN World Food Program (WFP) and Ethiopian government agencies, it says reducing undernutrition will save lives and boost Ethiopia's struggling economy. 

The study shows Ethiopia lost an estimated $4.7 billion in 2009 because of child undernutrition. This is equivalent to 16.5 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.  

Currently, the report finds more than two out of every five children in Ethiopia are stunted and more than 80 percent of all cases of child under-nutrition go untreated.  It says malnutrition in Ethiopia causes more than 20 percent of child deaths.  It says these deaths have reduced Ethiopia's workforce by eight percent.

Undernutrition is a huge drain on the country's economy, said WFP spokeswman Elizabeth Byrs.

"The study estimates that Ethiopia could reduce losses by $12.5 billion by 2025 if it reduces underweight rates to five percent and stunting to 10 percent," Byrs said.

Stunted children in primary education have a higher-grade repetition rate than non-stunted children, according to the report. In addition, it says stunted children in Ethiopia also are more likely to drop out of school.

Byrs noted stunting does not end with childhood, but remains a life-long problem with long-term consequences for both the individual and the society.  The report says nearly 70 percent of adults in Ethiopia have suffered from stunting as children, which means more than 26 million people of working age have not been able to achieve their potential.

For example, adults who suffered from stunting as children are less likely to do heavy manual jobs because they tend to have lower body mass, resulting in a loss of income. The study said these adults have a high rate of absenteeism from their jobs.

The ramifications of undernutrition are so serious that the Ethiopian government recently launched a half-billion dollar National Nutrition Program to tackle this issue, said Byrs.

"The program of the government, in tight cooperation with WFP, will provide supplementary feeding and nutrition vitamins to young children since the pregnancy until the age of five to be sure during the first 1,000 days those children get sufficient nutriments and vitamins to avoid stunting," she said.

The program, which is due to last two-and-one half years, will also increase school feeding schemes.  Byrs added support programs for pregnant and lactating women will be developed in health centers and hospitals.

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by: seyoum777 from: ethiopia
June 26, 2013 8:00 AM
Undeniably Ethiopia's economy is growing. The growth is felt across the wide spectrum of the economy. We may dispute the rate of growth, but Ethiopia is indeed growing. This might be a sad story to the die-hard opposition members who live in the diaspora, but Ethiopia is conspicuously growing. Come to Addis and see for yourself.
In Response

by: mesfin from: us
June 26, 2013 2:03 PM
giving Example like India not solution for Ethiopia people ..we have to find ETH.solution ..as I know India has billion population I have never seen problem as Ethiopia. god only knows the numbers pf people that hiding by Ethio govt not seen by western donors. The solution will be 1. avoid one family leaders in the administration..2..give freedom for journalist to report every govt project 3. give opportinuty to oppostion group.4 . avoid corruption on taxes( some family group not paying fair tax like other people...this some must Hailemariam Desalegn do for for Ethiopian people other wise it will be nightmare/
In Response

by: Mesfin from: USA
June 26, 2013 1:23 PM
Infrastructure only not sign of development ..most of building built by a few corrupted political group ..Ethiopia economy is based on agriculture more than 85% is living in rural area still suffering by fertilizer debt . Ethiopia getting more than 4 billion dollar a year from the west still our problem is growing ...so I advice that donors must be investigate where their money spent . Don't tell me ETV report..

by: Ken Girtz from: Cyber Space
June 25, 2013 5:17 PM
Maybe Egypt will realise what its demands for Nile waters cause upstream and start with the man in the mirror.
In Response

by: Alem
June 26, 2013 9:28 AM
The fact that poverty is deepening has little to do with opposition groups. It is that in 2009 the ruling party put out new laws to stifle activities of civil societies, turned to one-party system, jailed journalists and shut down independent papers, blocked Facebook and searched emails and telephone conversations at will. Now you don't expect poverty to go away where transparency does not exist. You also need to remember the growth/development we talk about is largely dependent on foreign aid, is jobless and racked with corruption.

There has not been any accounting of billions because party-owned businesses operate without proper auditing. Over $16 billions have been smuggled out of the country in the past 10 years [according to Office of Global Financial Integrity] and Obama Admin is simply looking the other way. The late-Prime Minister Meles, his wife and comrades own bank accounts and real estate abroad, etc. The question no one is asking is why the US continues to fund a corrupt regime and why any one is surprised at the scale of poverty in Ethiopia when we know ruling party members steal aid money and/or refuse to allocate resources to communities that refuse to vote for it.
In Response

by: Akbarr from: US
June 26, 2013 3:41 AM
@ Mesfin Asfha... The problem with poverty specially in deep rooted poverty like Ethiopia, 10% growth for the last 10 years will not pull out everyone out of poverty. Look at India, It has the 4th largest economy and grows faster than any other countries, but 1/3 of the population is still in extreme poverty. The next thing is population growth and natural resources are not compatible in Ethiopia.
In Response

by: MESFIN ASSEFA from: USA
June 25, 2013 8:14 PM
Goverment telling us Ethiopia economy growing double digit for the last 10 years but this economy growth mystery for 90% percent of peoples..as we know economy growing for some political groups...so world donors have to investigate where their money spent....voa thank you for reporting this ..our farmers suffering by lack of fertilizers and fertilizer debt.,the only Ethiopia country farmers hung them selves for not paying for debt.

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