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.

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