Breaking the poverty/malnutrition cycle in Africa and the Middle East

Breaking the poverty/malnutrition cycle in Africa and the Middle East

Advancing rural infrastructure and improving access to rural livelihood opportunities - breaking the cycle of poverty in Africa

Poverty, hunger and malnutrition are coexisting in Africa and parts of the Middle East, creating inequalities that need to be addressed politically. This paper reviews the experiences with facing malnutrition in Sub-Saharan and North Africa and the Middle East.

The authors indicate the following findings:

  • malnutrition results from the imbalance of nutrients and energy provided to the body relative to its needs, and is spread in all regions under study
  • there is no doubt that if malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are not eradicated, there will be an increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases
  • concerning child malnutrition, underweight is prevalent in children under the age of 5 years in all North African countries, with the highest rates seen in Mauritania
  • while the problems of under-nutrition still exist, the burden of overweight and obesity and diet-related chronic disease is increasing; the peak is in Egypt

The paper highlights the critical need for countries in North and Sub-Saharan Africa to find nutrition solutions that are adapted to their circumstances. Such solutions should combine supplement use as well as agricultural and educational actions to achieve better and sustainable nutrition for improved public health.

Policy recommendations encompass: 

  • a focus on integrated approaches to the advancement of rural infrastructure and livelihood opportunities will positively contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty in Africa
  • to break the generational cycle of malnutrition, the focus must be on preventing and treating malnutrition in pregnant women and in children aged 0–2 years
  • rather than under-nutrition, more efforts should be made to decrease other types of malnutrition in North Africa
  • in this context, a pressing need exists in this region to intensify efforts to strengthen programs for the prevention and control of obesity
  • school feeding policy could be useful, though it doesn’t attack the root causes of malnutrition

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