Thu, Feb 06, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Cycle of malnutrition hurting Afghanistan’s economy

Poor nutrition in the first two years of a child’s life has a permanent effect on growth and development and could spell economic disaster for Afghanistan

By mma Graham-Harrison  /  The Guardian, SAMANGAN, Afghanistan

That includes hands-on demonstrations, with nurses chopping onions into a basic pressure cooker before adding lentils, rice and vegetables, and warnings to spend spare money on protein rather than the cookies and cakes that many lavish on their children.

The information does help, because “parents don’t know much about health here,” Mohammad said, but still it troubles him to see those who arrive beyond the reach of his help.

“If a child comes in after too long with chronic malnutrition, he cannot fully recover. We can only teach the parents so they take more care it doesn’t happen with the other kids,” he said.

Extreme poverty and a harsh climate mean many Afghans go hungry.

One-third of the population do not get enough food to live healthy, active lives, and another third hover around the borderline of “food insecurity,” or not knowing where their next meal will come from. The food shortages are particularly damaging to young children, who need to develop fast.

International studies show that children who are properly fed can earn between a third and a half more as adults than those who did not get a proper diet, Morrison said.

Overall malnutrition shaves 2 to 3 percent off Afghanistan’s national income each year, the World Bank said. That is about half a billion US dollars lost to an already very poor country.

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