THE health effects caused by hunger are irreversible, and according to studies, 24% of Namibian children are said to be suffering from stunted growth and treating multifaceted challenges such as lower productivity with much higher costs to health and education.
The National Planning Commission (NPC) in conjunction with several international organisations launched the Cost of Hunger Study in Namibia, which will see a nationwide census conducted to establish how many children in Namibia are undernourished and estimates on the social and economic impact of undernourishment of infants – at the level of the health sector, education and labor productivity.
The study is estimated to cost US$150 000 and will be mostly funded by the Namibian Government, alongside development partners such as the UN, the African Union, the World Food Programme and NEPAD.
Giving a brief overview on the key areas of the Cost of Hunger Africa (COHA) Namibian country representative, and Chief National Development advisor at the (NPC), Sylvester Mbangu stated that the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey ( DHS) Report shows that we have made significant progress, reducing stunting from 29% to 24%.
Mbangu stated that these study will help enable government realizes goals set in NDP5 and other national development strategies to reduce malnutrition to 12% by identifying communities hard hit by malnutrition in the country.
The development advisor stated that hunger goes beyond going without food but rather is the inability of consuming right amounts of micronutrients that are essential for cognitive development and growth.
Mbangu further elaborated that food insecurity in the country remains high standing at 39% while undernutrition is responsible for up to 45% of all under-five’s deaths.
“A total of 40-60 % of current working population were stunted as children. Undernutrition doesn’t only affect the health and well-being of individual children but prevent our children from reaching their full potential and undermines the strength of their societies,” Mbangu stated.
While unable to attend the event, NPC Minister Obeth Kandjoze in a statement relayed that Namibia is among 4 other countries that are implementing the study this year with aid of the AU and supporting partners.
The study will be carried out by the Namibia Statistics Agency and will take between 4 to 5 months.
Kangjoze stated that in Namibia, the most common immediate causes of malnutrition in children under five according to the Namibian Demographic Health Survey, 2013, are inadequate breastfeeding and poor complementary feeding practices, poor care-taking practices, frequent infections such as diarrhoea through poor hygiene, malaria, pneumonia and poor maternal nutritional status.
“What will our country’s population health status be like when the future is faced or stands to be riddled with conditions that limit the abilities of children today to develop into productive future citizens? What will our country be like when dropout rates are high today?” Kandjoze questioned.
Namibia, although classified as an Upper Middle-Income Country produces only about 43% of the total national food consumption needs according to the latest Crop Prospects, Food Security and Drought Situation Report.