Nominated experts from the ministries of health, agriculture, local governance, foreign affairs, finance and economic planning and more attended a meeting on 19 February to launch a government-led study estimating the economic costs of the child undernutrition.
Tuesday’s meeting, at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel served as the initial meeting of the study’s National Implementation team to carryout data collection. The implementation team will draw members from six ministries – the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation – and the National Institute of Statistics.
The launch of the study indicates an interest by the Government of Rwanda in child undernutrition both on social and economic issues.
Under the lead of the Ministry of Health, the study will utilize data from national and regional sources to estimate the economic costs of undernutrition on health, education, and productivity in Rwanda in a base year of 2009. The study will also provide data on potential savings if undernutrition rates were reduced.
The Cost of Hunger study will estimate the potential losses associated with cases of morbidities and grade repetitions, losses in income due to reduced schooling and stunting, as well as the lost potential income of people who are absent from the workforce due to undernutrition-related mortalities.
Research shows that children who are malnourished are more likely to experience common health problems such diarrhoea, anaemia, respiratory infections, and fever. These additional cases are costly to the medical system and to the families. Children who are undernourished are also more likely to die.
People who were undernourished as children can have reduced cognitive ability and are more likely to repeat grades, or drop out of school. Additional years of schooling incur costs for the education system and families. Fewer years in school (dropouts) associated to undernutrition can lead to a reduced ability to earn income.
People who were stunted as children have reduced physical capacity to perform manual labour and therefore reduced ability to earn income.
The Cost of Hunger Study in Africa (COHA) is a project led by the African Union Commission and supported by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) and is being carried out by twelve governments in Africa. Results from the study in Rwanda will be expected by mid-2013.