A new study has found that The Gambia is losing 3.96 billion Gambian Dalasi (US$83 million) a year—about 5.1 percent of the country’s annual GDP—due to the effects of child undernutrition.
The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study was undertaken by the Government of The Gambia in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the African Union Commission (AUC) and its Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the European Union (EU). The study showed that the losses are incurred each year through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and reduced workforce productivity.
Dr. Isatou Touray, Vice President of The Gambia, said during the launch of the study, "It is alarming that we are losing 5.1 percent of our National GDP annually because of the consequences of child undernutrition on school performance, health, and productivity. The Government of The Gambia is committed to working with all partners through the NDP to build a prosperous nation with a healthy and well-developed human resource."
The country has made some progress in improving nutrition—malnutrition rates are currently declining and the country is on target to meet the government’s National Development Programme’s nutrition target of reducing stunted growth to 12.5 percent, wasting to 5 percent, and underweight to 8.5 percent by 2021. According to the COHA study, if the prevalence of stunted growth among children is reduced to 9.6 percent and if underweight is reduced to 6 percent, The Gambia will save up to 4.95 billion Gambian Dalasi (US$ 104 million) by 2030.
WFP Representative and Country Director in the Gambia Wanja Kaaria said, "Nutrition is the bedrock to a better, healthier and wealthier life, and investment in this sector is a necessary step towards sustainable development."
COHA studies have so far been conducted in 26 countries, the overall results of which show that the economies of these countries have suffered an estimated loss to GDP of between 1.9 percent and 16.5 percent every year due to child undernutrition.