Uganda loses some USD 899 million annually - as much as 5.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - due to the effects of malnutrition.
This is the alarming finding of a new study entitled (The Cost of Hunger in Africa), published in Uganda and Geneva today.
The study was conducted by the Government of Uganda with the support of the African Union Commission including New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). It underlines that undernutrition is not just a health issue, but an economic one as well.
Using data from 2009, the study measured the losses to the Ugandan economy caused by child undernutrition, particularly the effects of stunting or chronic malnutrition.
Stunting, or being short for your age (low-height-for-age), results when children miss out on critical nutrients including proteins, vitamins and minerals, while in the womb or in the first five years of life.
People affected by stunting are more likely in later life to be sickly, to perform poorly at school or drop out of classes, to be less productive at work and to die early.
The study found that treating diarrhoea, anaemia, respiratory infections and other clinical conditions related to malnutrition cost Uganda USD 254 million.
Losses in productivity reached USD 201 million in manual sectors, such as agriculture, and USD 116 million in non-manual activities, due to lower educational levels.
In the educational sector, the study estimated that 7 per cent of all repetitions in school are associated with stunting. This represented 134,000 repetitions for an estimated cost of USD 9.5 million, for the government and the families.
The study also estimated that child mortality associated to under nutrition reduced Uganda's labour force by 3.8 per cent. This represents over 943 million working hours lost due to an absent workforce brought about by early deaths. This cost Uganda nearly USD 317 million.
Uganda was the first country on the continent to carry out the Cost of Hunger in Africa study. Findings from the three other pilot countries will be launched in Egypt on 20 June, in Ethiopia on 24 June and in Swaziland in July.
The research is being conducted in a total of 12 African countries, using a methodology originally applied in Latin America with the support of WFP.
The 11 other countries are: Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, Botswana, Ghana, Swaziland and Mauritania.
The National Planning Authority, the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics and the Ministries of Health, Education and Sports, and Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries also participated in the study, which was funded by the Government of France, the African Development Bank and WFP.