Two out of five Ethiopian children are stunted by malnutrition or worse, and the resulting deaths have reduced Ethiopia’s workforce by 8 percent, according to a report in Voice of America.
More than 80 percent of all cases of child undernutrition go untreated in Ethiopia, and malnutrition causes more than 20 percent of child deaths, the report says.
Reducing undernutrition will save lives and boost Ethiopia’s struggling economy, according to a new study led by the African Union Commission, the U.N. World Food Program and Ethiopian government agencies.
The study shows Ethiopia lost an estimated $4.7 billion in 2009 because of child undernutrition, which is equivalent to 16.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Ethiopia could reduce losses by $12.5 billion by 2025 if the country reduces underweight rates to 5 percent and stunting to 10 percent, said World Food Program spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs in the report.
Driven by improved agricultural output, Ethiopia’s economy is expected to grow by 10 percent this year, said Ahmed Shide, Ethiopia’s minister of finance and economic development, in a Reuters interview on CNBC. This is higher than the 6.5 percent growth forecast given by the International Monetary Fund for the fiscal year ending July 7.
Better rains improved harvests there, the Reuters report said. Ethiopia’s main crops include coffee, pulses, oil seeds and cereals.
Hunger in Ethiopia is so serious that the Ethiopian government recently launched a half-billion dollar National Nutrition Program to tackle it, Byrs said in the Voice of America report.
The program will provide supplementary food and vitamins to young children and mothers from pregnancy until age of 5, “to be sure during the first 1,000 days those children get sufficient nutriments and vitamins to avoid stunting,” Byrs said.