BANJUL – The economy of The Gambia is losing 3.96 billion Gambian Dalasi (US$83 million) a year – about 5.1 percent of the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to the effects of child undernutrition, according to a new study released in Banjul today. The multi-agency Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study shows that the losses are incurred each year through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and reduced workforce productivity. “It is alarming that we are losing 5.1 percent of our National GDP annually because of the consequences of child undernutrition on school performance, health and productivity,” said the Vice President of The Gambia, H.E. Dr Isatou Touray. “The Government of The Gambia is committed to working with all partners through the NDP to build a prosperous nation with a healthy and well-developed human resource,” she said during the launch of the study.
The COHA study was undertaken by the Government of The Gambia in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the African Union Commission (AUC) and it’s Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the European Union (EU).
“The launch of the COHA study today is another manifestation of UN delivering as one. We see an example of joint collaboration by the UN family to scale up support to the Government and accelerate Sustainable Development Goals implementation in the last decade,” said UN Resident Coordinator Serafine Wakana.
The Gambia has made some progress in improving nutrition. Malnutrition rates are in decline and the country is on target to meet the government’s National Development Programme’s nutrition target of reducing stunting to 12.5 percent, wasting to 5 percent, and underweight to 8.5 percent by 2021.
The COHA findings demonstrate that if the prevalence of stunting (low growth for age) among children is reduced to 9.6 percent and if underweight is reduced to 6 percent, The Gambia will save up to 4.95 billion Gambian Dalasi (US$ 104 million) by 2030.
“Nutrition is the bedrock to a better, healthier and wealthier life, and investment in this sector is a necessary step towards sustainable development,” said Wanja Kaaria, WFP Representative and Country Director in the Gambia.
COHA studies have so far been conducted in 26 countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, DRC, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The overall results of these studies reveal that the countries’ economies have suffered an estimated loss to GDP of between 1.9 percent and 16.5 percent per annum due to child undernutrition. Results of recently undertaken COHA studies have been released in Kenya and are due to be released soon in Sudan and Guinea Bissau.