Three in four Africans unable to afford a healthy diet

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Woldegebrial Abadi, 36, holds the hands of his severely malnourished newborn son Berhanu Woldegebrial at the Samre Hospital, in Samre, Tigray Region, Ethiopia, June 23, 2023. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "GLOBAL POY 2023" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2023 PACKAGES.

A report released on Thursday by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the World Food Programme reveals that more than three-fourths of Africans cannot afford a nutritious diet, and one-fifth are suffering from undernourishment amid an unprecedented food crisis. The continent’s 1.4 billion inhabitants are grappling with heightened levels of hunger and malnutrition, exacerbated by global grain supply disruptions from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, along with ongoing African conflicts, climate change, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report underscores that millions are anticipated to face an increased risk of worsening hunger in the near future. Despite Africa’s abundant natural resources, it remains far from meeting its commitment to eradicate hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2025. The continent’s population, projected to double by 2050, experiences a unique situation where economic growth is not translating into improved living standards, with some even expressing support for military coups promising a better life.

There are many challenge, with armed violence displacing millions in West and Central Africa, climate change posing severe threats to farmers in East Africa, and skyrocketing food prices outpacing income growth for many families, making it increasingly difficult for them to afford proper nutrition.

According to the report, over 78% of Africa’s population, exceeding one billion people, cannot afford a healthy diet. This stands in stark contrast to the global level, where 42% face similar challenges, and the situation is deteriorating.

In 2022, approximately 342 million Africans experienced severe food insecurity, constituting 38% of the global total of 735 million hungry people. The crisis is particularly harsh on children under the age of 5, with 30% suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

The report underlines the urgency for countries to intensify their efforts, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agencies highlight that an additional 57 million Africans have become undernourished since the pandemic’s start, bringing the total to nearly 282 million in the past year. The period between 2019 and 2022 witnessed a substantial worsening of hunger, reversing the progress made between 2000 and 2010.

In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and a major oil producer, nearly 93% of the population, exceeding 210 million people, is unable to afford a healthy diet, according to the report. This stark reality prompts questions about the utilization of the continent’s wealth by African governments to improve the quality of life for their citizens.

The report ends with a call for improvements in education, health, and energy, to ensure better production, nutrition, environment, and overall well-being for all Africans.

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