Sub-Saharan Africans worst affected by undernourishment

Undernourishment measures the quality of food available, laying particular emphasis on protein and energy content.

According to the 2014 Hunger Map and a report titled “The State of Food Insecurity in the World: Strengthening the Enabling Environment for Food Security and Nutrition” jointly prepared by World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the number of hungry people has fallen by over 200-million since 1992.

The report says 805-million people, or one in nine of the world’s population, go to bed hungry each night. But Sub-Saharan Africa is in the worst condition worldwide with one in four of its people suffering from undernourishment. “In general, in Africa, there has been insufficient progress towards international hunger targets, especially in the sub-Saharan region,” the report says.

The report says sub-Saharan Africa faces the most severe challenges in securing its food condition mainly due to sluggish income growth, high poverty rates and poor infrastructure, which hampers physical and distributional access. “Food utilisation remains a major concern, as indicated by the high prevalence of stunted and underweight children under five,” it reads. 

The report also says limited progress had been made in improving access to safe drinking-water and providing adequate sanitation facilities, while the region continues to face challenges in improving dietary quality and diversity, particularly for the poor.

“The stability of food supplies has deteriorated, mainly owing to political instability, war and civil strife,” says the report. However the situation is different in North Africa with the prevalence of undernourishment consistently under 5% since 1990.

SADC’s high prevalence
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries including Namibia, Zambia and Malawi have all been shown to have a “very high” prevalence of undernourishment not just in Africa but in the world with 35% of the population affected in some cases.

They are followed by Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe who are all in the “high” category with figures ranging from 25% to 34, 9%. Angola and Lesotho have “moderately high” undernourishment levels ranging from 15% to 24,9%. Information was not available for the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Of all the SADC countries, only South Africa has succeeded in matching the low prevalence undernourishment levels of North African, European, American and some Asian countries. South Africa and these countries have a low incidence of undernourishment which stands at under 5% according to the Hunger Map for 2014.

The report noted that there was insufficient time to achieve the World Food Summit target of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015. The organisation identified “sustained political commitment at the highest level” as a prerequisite for hunger eradication, saying that this entails “placing food security and nutrition at the top of the political agenda and creating an enabling environment for improving food security and nutrition through adequate investments, better policies, legal frameworks, stakeholder participation and a strong evidence base. Institutional reforms are also needed to promote and sustain progress.”

The report prescribes an integrated approach that would include public and private investments to raise agricultural productivity, better access to inputs, land, services, technologies and markets and measures to promote rural development. 

Social protection for the most vulnerable, including strengthening their resilience to conflicts and natural disasters and specific nutrition programmes, especially to address micronutrient deficiencies in mothers and children under five, were also identified as required interventions.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

E-payments for the unbanked are booming

The pandemic is providing mobile phone network operators with a unique chance to partner with fintech firms and banks to deliver clever e-commerce solutions to the informal sector in Africa

The cost of Covid: 25 years of progress, halted

Development has been set back by two decades, says the Gates Foundation Goalkeepers report

How to feed thousands

During lockdown, a powerful civil society network stepped up to the plate and managed to feed hundreds of thousands. People kept asking how this was done...

Heritage Month leaves much to be desired

Our economy may have doubled since 1994, but this growth has not trickled down to improve the livelihoods of the majority of South Africans

Investing in innovation will reduce unemployment and poverty

South African inventions that have changed the world are all underpinned by research, development and significant financial backing — to lose this would be tragic

A net to catch the NEETs

A decade of reconstruction looms post-Covid. This is our chance to restructure the economy to build a more inclusive one

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday