TANZANIA and other subSaharan African countries incur huge economic cost through direct and indirect impacts of micronutrients deficiencies on women, girls and children, a situation which could be fixed through cheap nutrition intervention.
According to the President and Chief Executive Officer of Nutrition International, Joel Spicer, recent UNICEF analysis determined that vitamin and mineral deficiencies cost Tanzania 650bn/- (about 390 million US dollars) in lost revenue each year.
"The damage economically is so heavy but the cost of fixing it is very low. It is about food supplementation. It is cheaper to fix them than to allow them to continue," he told senior reporters and editors of a few selected media houses in Dar es Salaam recently.
The CEO of Nutrition InterThe CEO of Nutrition InterThe CEO of Nutrition Inter national (formerly known as the Micronutrient Initiative), said social and economic costs of micronutrient deficiencies, with particular reference to women, female adolescents and children, were considerable but could have been avoided with cheap interbeen avoided with cheap interbeen avoided with cheap inter ventions.
However, he said the enormous burden of micronutrient deficiency was not peculiar to Tanzania only as other sub-Saharan African countries were also shouldering the heavy burden of micronutrient deficiency.
According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), malnutrition costs $3.5 trillion per year to the global economy. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies cost up to $2.1 trillion per year.
The cost of malnutrition is high, but investing in solutions can improve nutritional outcomes long term. Recent research showed that investing US$1.2 billion annually in micronutrient supplements, food fortification and biofortification of staple crops for five years would generate annual benefits of US$15.3 billion, a benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 13 to 1, and would result in better health, fewer deaths and increased future earnings.
In total, the economic cost of malnutrition is estimated to range from 2 to 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product to as much as 16 per cent in most affected countries.
The effects of malnutrition are long-term and trap generations of individuals and communities in the vicious circle of poverty. Malnutrition is also a massive barrier to economic growth, resulting in losses of up to 11% of GNP across Africa and Asia.
Health and opportunity costs associated with malnutrition result in losses of an estimated $3.5 trillion dollars from the global economy annually. Yet the returns on investment in nutrition are impressive, with $16 generated from every one dollar invested in nutrition.
So, investing in nutrition not only upholds fundamental human rights, it also makes sound economic sense. He said malnutrition had other severe long-term impact as it keeps people from reaching their full potential and cause children under perform in school which eventually limit their future job opportunities.
"Malnourished adults are less able to work, contribute to local economies, and provide care for their families. Malnourished mothers are more likely to have underweight children, who will in turn have a higher risk of physical and cognitive impairment.
This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation," he said. According to UNICEF, Tanzania has made striking progress in many health indicators over the past decade, but not nutritional status. Stunting currently affects 42 per cent of under five children, and is only a two percentage points lower than it was five years ago.
The burden of stunting in Tanzania ranks third in SubSaharan Africa, after Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Available statistics show anaemia rates in Tanzania are severe, with prevalence of approximately 45 per cent for women aged 15-49 anaemic in 2015.
A prevalence of over 20 per cent is considered to be a public health problem by World Health Organisation.