Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe has expressed shock over revelations in a latest report that Malawi’s economy is losing $600 million (over K270 billion) every year due to the effects of hunger.
The revelations are contained in a report titled, ‘Cost of Hunger (Coha): The Social and Economic Impact of Child Under-nutrition,’ launched in Lilongwe last week.
The report was initiated by the African Union Commission (AUC) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) with support from United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
Reacting to the study findings, Gondwe expressed shock, stating that issues of nutrition have to be highlighted as a huge problem in Malawi.
“I think stunting is a scandal in a way that we could have done better. We have always not put nutrition funding as a priority, but now I can see the long-term effects of stunting through the performance of our football team when we play international matches. As you know, we have not been successful in such matches,” he said.
Gondwe said the study findings have confirmed the magnitude of the consequences that child malnutrition have on health, education as well as on overall national economy.
The minister said the study has also highlighted that Malawi has incurred huge economic losses associated with under-nutrition, the highest being the cost in loss of potential productivity.
Gondwe said government will do its best to ensure that it puts more money where children nutrition will make a difference, adding that they will target eliminating stunting in the next two years.
“It is in this context that we are determined, as government, to channel adequate resources towards nutrition interventions. Government will also strengthen institutional and human capacity for effective delivery of nutrition services.”
WFP representative for Malawi, Coco Ushiyama, described Malawi’s food and nutrition security situation as complex.
She said while for many years there has been good production at national level; the most vulnerable have difficulty in meeting their annual food needs.
The report estimates that child under-nutrition cost Malawi 10.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012, the most recent year with complete data.
In Malawi, where two thirds of the people are engaged in manual activities, it is estimated that in 2012 alone, K16.5 billion (US$36.7 million) was lost due to the reduced productivity of those who were stunted as children, according to the study findings.
The report findings come at a time Malawi has suffered severe impacts of floods, which affected 1.1 million people, displaced many from their homes, washed away huge areas of arable land, and, therefore, putting Malawi’s food security outlook gloomy.
Government estimates a 28 percent reduction in maize production alone this year following the floods, which have compelled Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to revise downwards national output as measured by real GDP for 2015 by 400 basis points to 5.4 percent from the earlier projected 5.8 percent.
The full Cost of Hunger In Africa – Malawi report can be downloaded from this link.