58.5 million children in Africa suffering from stunted growth

Stunted children are believed to have a lower resting energy expenditure and fat oxidation than non-stunted children./WHO
Stunted children are believed to have a lower resting energy expenditure and fat oxidation than non-stunted children./WHO

Around 58.5 million children in Africa are suffering from stunting, creating an adverse impact on the continent’s economic potential, the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said on Saturday evening.

“Africa is the only continent where the number of stunted children has increased over the last two decades: 58.5 million in 2018, up from 50.3 million at the turn of the century.

“39 per cent of the world’s stunted children and 28 per cent of the world’s wasted children are in Africa. They are prone to inhibited intellectual and physical growth, and sometimes even premature death,” said Adesina during the African leaders for nutrition high level dinner for heads of state in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

Adesina said the high number of stunted children in Africa means stunted economies tomorrow, with a loss in adult height by just one percent due to childhood stunting leading to a 1.4 percent loss in economic productivity.

The AfDB President said the bank has already instituted several initiatives to fight the blight of child stunting.

“The AfDB has set up the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) to raise awareness, accountability, and reinforce investment by African governments to end malnutrition among children.

“The AfDB has also launched the Continental Nutrition Accountability Scorecard at an AU summit in Feb. 2019. The scorecard provides heads of states with a snapshot of progress and areas where action is needed to meet the agreed nutrition goals,” Adesina told the gathering.

Adesina also emphasized the bank is currently helping individual African countries with anti-childhood stunting initiatives.

“In Ethiopia, we’re currently preparing a 45 million U.S. dollars project in support of the government of Ethiopia’s bold Seqota Declaration to eradicate the underlying causes of chronic under-nutrition and end stunting among children under five years by 2030,” said Adesina.

With Africa’s population expected to reach nearly 2.6 billion by 2030 and the continent’s under-25 population expected to reach more than half of the continent’s total population by 2050, the AfDB President said investing in innovative solutions is essential to transform food systems in the continent to cope with rising population growth.

“We must invest in skills development of Africa’s youth in technology and innovation. We must embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution and exploit emerging technologies that African entrepreneurs can leverage to transform food systems. ”

“A re-engineered food system would generate new jobs across the whole food system, from agricultural food production through to food processing and retail,” said Adesina.