Rwanda lost an estimated Rwf 503.6 billion in 2012 as a result of child under-nutrition, according to a new report.
The Cost Hunger report was released yesterday at the opening of a major Food and Nutrition Summit in Kigali. It indicates that the loss, an equivalent of 11.5 per cent of the country’s GDP, was incurred in health, education and productivity costs.
While releasing the report, Dr Fidele Ngabo, the maternal and child health director at the Ministry of Health said health costs due to child under-nutrition totalled to Rwf 65.1 bn.
“The treatment of under-nutrition and related illnesses is a critical recurrent cost for the health system. Treating a severely underweight child, for example, is more costly than preventing under-nutrition. These costs pose a serious burden, not just to the health sector but to society as a whole. More than half the cost is incurred during the first 1,000 days of the life of the child, particularly before the child turns two years,” he said.
Dr Ngabo said 74.1 per cent of the cost is incurred by families of under-malnourished children while the rest is shouldered by the health system.
He also noted that malnutrition is a major cause of poor performance in schools.
“Repetition in schooling has direct cost implications for families and schools. In 2012, the 44, 255 students who repeated grades due to malnutrition among other factors incurred a cost of Rwf2.3bn with a huge chunk of it (Rwf 1.5 bn) being incurred by families and caretakers,” Ngabo said.
The report showed that 49.2 per cent ( representing about 3,010,751 people) of the working age population was stunted during childhood.
“The total loss in productivity for 2012 is estimated at Rwf436.1bn, equivalent to 10 per cent of Rwanda’s GDP. The largest share of the productivity loss is due to under nutrition,” the report reads in part.
To mitigate the impact of malnutrition, Raphael Rurangwa, the director general of policy and planning at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the ministry had put in place policy interventions.
“The Girinka project that will see each family get a cow is one of the interventions. There is also the ‘one cup per child’ drive which will see school children provided with milk to help improve their nutrition. We are also trying to make milk available for children who are out of school. There is also a kitchen garden programme which will enable households provide balanced diet to children,” Rurangwa said.
Dr Octave Semwaya, from the Ministry of Finance, said the ministry had allocated funds to facilitate the various intervention programmes that had been rolled out.
“Eradicating malnutrition is our priority. For the One Cow per Household programme (Girinka), we have allocated it Rwf3.3bn in this year’s budget (2013-2014). The One cup of milk per child programme has been allocated Rwf223m. We have further allocated Rwf6bn to irrigation interventions and Rwf20bn for crop intensification programme. There is also Rwf242m for poultry development in the country.”
State minister for primary health care, Dr Anita Asiimwe, noted that there was need to pay attention to avert the impacts of malnutrition.
The Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Marc Herant, called for evaluation of the socio-economic aspects of the communities with under nourished children since malnutrition does not occur in isolation.
“There is need to have as many interventions as possible so as to avoid the costs that come with malnutrition,” she said.