Hunger is killing Ghana’s economy, Report shows

A lot of Ghanaian kids are hungry and it is taking a toll on the West African country’s economy.

According to a new study launched on Tuesday, the economy of Ghana is losing some GHC4.6 billion ($2.6 billion, or 6.4 percent of GDP) a year to the effects of child undernutrition. The study showed that 37 percent of the adult population in Ghana suffered from stunting as children. Also, 24 percent of all child mortality cases in Ghana are associated with undernutrition. The effect is felt in the Ghanaian workforce, which has reduced by 7.3 percent.

“In the Northern Region of Ghana, thirty percent of children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished. This not only affects their growth but also their educational development and economic potential, and consequently the future of the country,” said Margot van der Velden, WFP Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

The consequences of stunting (low height for age) are of particular concern. Stunting occurs when children miss out on critical nutrients — including proteins, vitamins and minerals — while in the womb and in the first two years of life. This is compounded by diseases and poor hygiene practices. People affected by stunting face lifelong consequences starting in childhood such as frequent illness, poor school performance, having to repeat classes or dropping out altogether, and low workplace productivity.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition on Ghana’s Long-Term Development (COHA) shows vast amounts being lost through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens on the education system and lower productivity by its workforce.

However, Ghana is taking action. The country has made some progress in improving child nutrition over the past two decades, reducing chronic malnutrition or stunting from 23 to 19 percent. There is, however, need for further progress.

“The goal of eliminating stunting is key to achieving Zero Hunger, Sustainable Development Goal 2,” said Thomas Yanga, Director of the World Food Programme Africa Office. “The losses to the economy can be averted through strategic interventions which ensure adequate nutrition for mothers and young children.”