The African Kingdom of Swaziland loses roughly 3.1 percent of its GDP every year due to the long-term impacts of hunger, a new study assessing the economic impact of malnutrition across Africa has shown.
The Cost of Hunger in Africa report, prepared by the government of Swaziland working together with WFP, estimates that hunger costs the country around US $92 million per year in lost worker productivity.
"This study provides an elegant argument for addressing undernutrition," said Prince Hlangusemphi, the country's minister of economic planning and development. He added that eradicating hunger was a "tangible goal" that Swaziland was committed to achieving.
A heavy toll
The Cost of Hunger in Africa study drew on data from 2009 to measure the economic impact of stunting and chronic malnutrition. Stunting, or being short for one's age, results when children are denied the necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals their bodies need to develop before the age of five.
Around 270,000 adults in Swaziland, or more than 40 percent of its workers, suffer from stunting. As a result, they're more likely to get sick, do poorly in school, be less productive at work and have shorter lives.
Treating cases of diarrhoea, anaemia, respiratory infections and other help problems related to hunger costs Swaziland around US $6 million per year. An estimated 37 million working hours were lost in 2009 as a result of hunger-related deaths, with a cost to the economy of about 1.4 percent of GDP.
Low worker productivity saps around US $14.8 million per year out of sectors that rely on manual labour and another US $29.5 million from those that require some education. Children who have to repeat grades in school because they're too hungry to concentrate cost the country's education system around US $701,000 per year.
The study estimated that by reducing the rate of stunting from 40 percent to 10 percent of the population by 2025, it could reduce losses to its economy by as much as US $60 million per year.
Cost of hunger in Africa
Swaziland was the fourth country on the continent to carry out the Cost of Hunger in Africa study. Earlier findings indicated that Ethiopia loses 16.5 percent of its GDP to hunger for a total cost of US $4.7 billion per year.
Egypt put its own losses from hunger at $3.7 billion per year (1.9 percent of GDP) while Uganda, the first country to release the report, estimated that hunger cost it 5.6 percent of GDP, or around $899 million per year.
The research is being conducted in a total of 12 African countries, using a methodology originally applied in Latin America. Eight other countries will release their own reports later in the year including: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania and Rwanda.