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Malnutrition Costs Uganda 5 Per Cent Of GDP

Some 943 million working hours are lost each year in Uganda as a result of the long-term effects of malnutrition on the country's workers. Copyright: WFP/Stephen Wandera

Uganda loses some US $899 million annually due to the effects of malnutrition. This is the alarming finding of a new study entitled The Cost of Hunger in Africa, which for the first time measures the economic burden of hunger on the continent. Uganda is the first of 12 countries in the region to announce its findings.

KAMPALA (Uganda) – Widespread malnutrition costs the central African nation of Uganda hundreds and millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, according to a new study. Read the news release

The Cost of Hunger in Africa study estimated that Uganda loses around $899 million per year -- around 5.6 per cent of its gross domestic product -- as a result of workers getting sick more often and being less productive because they lacked the right nutrition as children.

Publication: WFP in Africa

WFP assists African governments and communities through country-led, programmes to tackle hunger.  In 2012, out of a total US$4.2 billion expenditure, two thirds (US$2.7 billion) was allocated to Africa. To find out more about what WFP is doing in Africa, download WFP in Africa (Pdf: 1.2MB)

“These are extremely worrying findings,” said Prime Minister Amama Mbazi, whose government played a central role in the Uganda part of the study. He said that steady economic growth in Uganda in recent years was not enough to to address stunting and other costly impacts of a poor diet.

Uganda urgently needs to invest in nutrition-oriented measures and policies to ensure economic savings for the country and its families alike, the Prime Minister added.

Cost of Hunger

The findings in Uganda were the first to emerge from the Cost of Hunger in Africa report, a study carried out in 12 countries across the region with the support of the African Union Commission, a body which includes the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and WFP. 

According to the report, malnourished children dropping out or underperforming at school subtracts around $116 million from an economy in need of educated workers. Lower productivity in sectors such as agriculture cost Uganda another $201 million per year.

The country spends around $254 million per year treating cases of diarrhoea, anaemia and respiratory infections linked to malnutrition. Enough children die each year of causes related to hunger to reduce Uganda’s labor force by some 3.8 per cent. That amounts to some 934 million working hours lost every year due to an absent workforce.

Critical nutrients

Uganda nonetheless has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, expanding by an average 5 per cent over the past three years. But economic progress hasn’t been sufficient to bring down high levels of malnutrition.

One in three Ugandan children suffer from stunting, a lifelong condition that results when children miss out on critical nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals while in the womb or in the first five years of life. People affected by stunting are more likely to suffer from illnesses, drop out of school, be less productive at work and live shorter lives.

To ascertain the economic impact of hunger on countries like Uganda, the authors of The Cost of Hunger in Africa report looked at data going back to 2009. Findings for Egypt, Ethiopia and Swaziland will be released in the coming weeks. 

Using a statistical methodology first pioneered in Latin America, the researchers will survey 12 African countries in total including Kenya, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, Botswana, Ghana and Mauritania.