More efforts are needed, particularly by the government to curb the spate of malnutrition in Ghana and other parts of Africa, an international report has recommended.
The report launched on Monday by the Malabo Montpellier Panel notes that across Africa, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger dropped from 28% to 20% between 1990 and 2015 although the total number continues to increase due to a rapidly growing population.
The 36-page report titled: “Nourished: How Africa Can Build a Future Free from Hunger and Malnutrition,” notes that a number of African countries have made substantial progress in the fight against malnutrition but a lot of work needs to be done to defeat the problem. “Senegal, Ghana, and Rwanda have all reduced the number of undernourished people and wasted and stunted children by more than 50%,” it noted.
But the report adds: “There is still a lot of work to do. Demographic changes and urbanization are adding pressure on food systems to increase yields… Critical threats include conflict and climate change - which delay progress or even reverse gains in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The consumption of cheap, nutrient-poor food and reduced physical activity among the middle class is driving up obesity levels. The estimated prevalence of childhood obesity is expected to reach 11% in 2025.”
The Malabo Montpellier Panel is a group of 17 leading African and European experts in agriculture and related areas that periodically provides data and advice aimed at enhancing the quality of policies on food security being implemented by African governments. Co-Chair of the panel OusmaneBadiane who is Africa Director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) noted: “Much progress has been made, which is heartening. However, significant challenges remain.” Others on the panel include representatives from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
A recent report released in August 2016 by the United Nations on the ‘cost of hunger in Africa’ claimed Ghana loses $2.6 billion annually due to problems associated with poor nutrition in children. It said: "In the Northern Region of Ghana, 30 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."
But the report by the Malabo Montpellier Panel says substantial progress is being made in the fight against malnutrition in the country. “In 2008, Ghana was ranked among the 36 countries in the world with the highest burden of chronic childhood undernutrition. However, the reduction of undernutrition levels since then has been substantial compared to other countries in West Africa,” the report said. “Ghana (has) made significant progress in reducing the proportion of stunted, wasted, and underweight children during the same time,” it added.
The report recommends that African governments adopt a comprehensive policy on nutrition as a top priority and set up a mechanism to coordinate coherent agenda on nutrition to help deal with the problem. It also calls on governments to invest in crises prevention and emergency intervention capacities to address the threat of conflict to malnutrition reduction.