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Child Hunger Threatens Africa’s Social and Economic Future

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By Ronald Joshua

ADDIS ABABA (IDN) – Africa’s future economic and social progress is under threat from alarmingly high levels of child hunger, and the severity and scale of the problem is such that it requires nothing short of a radical and transformative political and economic agenda, according to a new study released at the Eighth International Policy Conference on the African Child.

The report pleads among others for: (i) political commitment at the highest political level; (ii) a constitutional or legal commitment to ensure that no child goes hungry and to make it obligatory for governments to provide universal access to a minimum acceptable amount of food for all children; and (iii) provision of targeted social safety nets and school-feeding programmes across regions and communities. 

The blunt report by African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) uses the latest data to show that although global child hunger is declining, in some parts of Africa it is getting worse. Around 60 million African children are stunted, with millions more suffering from wasting. Hunger contributes to nearly half of all child deaths.

ACPF is an independent, not-for-profit Pan-African centre of policy research and advocacy centre on the African child. It was established in 2003 out of concern about the situation of the African child and the need for Africans to recognise their responsibility to collectively ensure the realisation of all rights to all children. 

ACPF’s Executive Director Dr. Assefa Bequele warns: “It is completely unacceptable that children are still going hungry in Africa in the 21st century. The statistics are truly alarming. Nine out of ten African children don’t get enough nutritious food. One in three is stunted. Two out of five don’t eat regular meals.”

More than 500 high-level delegates – including heads of state, ministers, the African Union and United Nations representatives, experts and child and women’s rights campaigners – are attending the two-day conference focusing on the huge personal, social and economic costs of child hunger which currently costs African countries as much as 17 percent of their GDP – to say nothing of the human misery. 

“Child hunger is driven by extreme poverty, uneven and unequal economic growth, gender inequality and a broken food system,” said Dr. Bequele. “Although Africa now produces more food than ever, it hasn’t resulted in better diets. Conflict and climate change only serve to make it more complicated.”

“Poverty and economic and gender inequality play a big part in perpetuating child hunger,” said the world-renowned women’s and child rights campaigner Graça Machel, Chair of ACPF’s International Board of Trustees.

“Women and girls, along with children from poor and rural backgrounds, suffer the most from hunger. In some countries, stunting rates are twice as high among rural children as among their urban counterparts.” Machel noted that “the lasting effects [of hunger] on the cognitive and physical development of the African child and their families has led to the stunted development of societies.”

“Despite this deeply concerning reality, many African governments are failing to meet their obligations,” said Machel. “Africa has made great strides. Child hunger could be eradicated if governments met their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil children’s rights and ensure their well-being.”

“Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem”, says Assefa Bequele, “It is the offspring of the unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable governance, and economic mismanagement. Persistent and naked though the reality is, it remains a silent tragedy, one that remains largely unacknowledged and tolerated, perhaps because it is a poor people’s problem”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 May 2019]

Image credit: African Child Forum

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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