News / Africa

UNICEF: Africa's Child Malnutrition Costs $25 Billion Annually

Bonko Diawara holds her 17-month-old daughter, Diarra Yattibere, as she recovers from malnutrition, at a nutrition center at Selibaby's hospital, in the Guidimakha region, Mauritania, June 2012.Bonko Diawara holds her 17-month-old daughter, Diarra Yattibere, as she recovers from malnutrition, at a nutrition center at Selibaby's hospital, in the Guidimakha region, Mauritania, June 2012.
x
Bonko Diawara holds her 17-month-old daughter, Diarra Yattibere, as she recovers from malnutrition, at a nutrition center at Selibaby's hospital, in the Guidimakha region, Mauritania, June 2012.
Bonko Diawara holds her 17-month-old daughter, Diarra Yattibere, as she recovers from malnutrition, at a nutrition center at Selibaby's hospital, in the Guidimakha region, Mauritania, June 2012.
Lisa Bryant
Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the world's highest rates of chronic malnutrition among children. Now, the United Nations children's agency has put a price tag on it: $25 billion a year. That's the conclusion of a UNICEF conference on child malnutrition that wrapped up Wednesday in Paris.

The effects of hunger often are obvious. Think about the images of skeletal children during the recent droughts in Africa's Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Stunting, or chronic malnutrition, is less easy to detect - but its effects can be equally devastating.

Worldwide, cases of chronic malnutrition have shrunk dramatically in recent decades, though much less so in Africa. UNICEF estimates that chronic child malnutrition costs African countries a staggering $25 billion a year in loss of productivity and health costs that otherwise might have been avoided.

That's one reason UNICEF France hosted a two-day international conference on chronic malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. Gathering humanitarian agencies and representatives from 35 African countries, it comes just weeks before G8 leaders discuss ways to combat malnutrition at a summit in Northern Ireland.

"It's proven that because of chronic malnutrition, children can miss two to three years of school," said Laurent Duvillier, UNICEF's regional spokesman for West and Central Africa. "So actually, in the case of sub-Saharan Africa, we realize that those countries actually need that qualified manpower, but they may not have those intellectuals, those engineers, those doctors that they actually need because those children cannot reach their potential and their development as they should," said Laurent Duvillier is UNICEF's regional spokesman for West and Central Africa.

Chronic malnutrition often is described as a "hidden hunger." That's because chronically malnourished children may look normal, but in fact their physical and mental growth is impaired. Treating them during the first 1,000 days of their lives is critical, and Duvillier said experts agree the focus should be on the poorest children.
 
"It's very important that we have an integrated response, that will encompass to appropriate food but also access to safe, drinkable water and access to a health care system. And that's the difficulty of it," said Duvillier.

If the effects of chronic malnutrition are costly, experts say treating it is not. And UNICEF estimates that even modest investments in combating chronic malnutrition among children can yield stunning returns.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid