In terms of economic consequences, food insecurity debilitates society by increasing mortality, disease and disability. It inflates the direct economic costs of coping with the health impacts and enormous reduction in human potential and economic productivity, brought about by hunger and malnutrition. Similarly, “hungry children make poor students and are prone to drop out of the educational system. Hungry and malnourished adults are unable to be fully productive workers and are more likely to be ill, increasing the burden on often overstretched health systems.”(43) The aggregate costs of food and nutrition insecurity in Africa impose a heavy burden on efforts to foster sustained economic growth and improve general welfare.(44) It is no surprise that of the 187 countries with a human development index (HDI) for 2011, the 15 lowest ranked are in SSA. Among the 30 countries ranked at the bottom, only Afghanistan and Haiti are outside the region.(45) Once solutions can be proffered to the food insecurity and malnutrition challenges in SSA, under-development will not be an issue on the continent.
Children are vulnerable to the consequences of food insecurity and malnutrition because of their physiology and high calorie needs for growth and development. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death of more than 2.6 million children each year, a third of under-five deaths, and a third of total child deaths worldwide.(29) It is a silent killer that is under-reported, under-addressed and consequently under-prioritised. The United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) 5th report describes malnutrition as the largest single contributor to disease, taking a particularly severe toll on preschool children.(30) One in three developing country preschoolers – 178 million children under the age of five – suffers from stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition. Eighty percent of these children live in just 20 countries in Africa and the Asia Pacific region.(31)
Fighting Child Hunger and Malnutrition - Save the Children
Food insecurity and malnutrition give rise to many consequences for health and development, with mothers and children most vulnerable to the devastating effects. Malnourished mothers are at a greater risk of dying in childbirth and of delivering low-birth-weight babies who fail to survive infancy. Undernourished babies who make it through infancy often suffer stunting that cripples and shortens their lives. Subsequently, they transfer the broad economic disadvantages of malnutrition in their own lives to the next generation thereby perpetuating the vicious cycle of low human development and destitution.