The cost of hunger in Ethiopia: implications for the growth and transformation of Ethiopia

The cost of hunger in Ethiopia: implications for the growth and transformation of Ethiopia

The cost of hunger (COHA) study is an important step forward to better understand the role child nutrition and human development can play as a catalyser, or as a constraint, in implementation of Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). This plan, which projects a sustained GDP growth of 11 per cent to 15 per cent from 2010 to 2015, represents the national strategy of Ethiopia towards poverty eradication. In its implementation, the GTP outlines opportunities in the agricultural and industrial sectors, and a series of indicators that need to be monitored to assess the progress towards the ultimate goal.

The results of the COHA study demonstrate that in order to enhance and sustain the results envisioned in the plan, child stunting must be addressed as a key priority. The results also suggest that in order for the country to achieve sustainable human and economic growth, special attention must be given to the early stages of life as the foundation of human capital. These results of the study are supported by an evidenced base, and a model of analysis specially adapted for Africa, which demonstrates the depth of the consequences of child under-nutrition in health education and labour productivity. This study further quantifies the potential gains of addressing child under-nutrition as a priority.

Further findings of this study include:

  • child under-nutrition generates health costs equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the total public budget allocated to health
  • as the health coverage expands to rural areas, there will be an increase of people seeking medical attention; this can potentially affect the efficiency of the system to provide proper care services
  • a preventive approach to under-nutrition can help reduce the incremental burden to the public sector, and also reduce the costs that are currently being covered by caretakers and families
  • stunting is one barrier to school attendance and retention that must be removed to effectively elevate the educational levels and improve individuals’ labour opportunities in the future
  • in the analysed countries, a reduction of the prevalence to half of the current levels of child under-nutrition by the year 2025 can generate annual average savings of 4.4 billion Ethiopian birr (US$376 million)

The study presents the following findings as on-going initiatives to the reduction of child under-nutrition:

  • promotion of awareness of the entire population
  • promoting the delivery of nutrition services integrating with other essential services
  • promoting optimal complementary feeding practices
  • initiating mandatory food fortification programs
  • promotion of Public-Private partnerships
  • increasing efforts and exploring further opportunities in Bio fortification
  • increasing nutrition sensitisation in existing sector activities
  • promoting the nutrition service delivery of adolescents
  • improvements in the Policy Environment
  • coordination of multi-sectoral nutrition interventions for common objective of addressing under-nutrition