Nutrition Facts for Africa

A stunted child is too short for his or her age due to prolonged malnutrition.

Africa is seeing an upward trend in the number of stunted children, from 50.6 million in 2000 to 58.7 million in 2017.

In 2017, more than one third of stunted children under the age of five lived in Africa. The prevalence of stunting in children under the age of five varies by region, with Sub-Saharan Africa showing a higher prevalence (33.9%) in comparison with Northern Africa:

  • East Africa – 35.6%
  • Central Africa – 32.1%
  • Northern Africa – 17.3%
  • Southern Africa – 29.1%
  • West Africa – 29.9%

 The consequences of stunting are irreversible, particularly on grey matter infrastructure and physical development of children, making children less likely to reach their full productive potential. Grey matter infrastructure is the brainpower of a population—with “grey matter” referring to brain tissue. Reference: Levels and Trends in child Malnutrition

Africa loses US $25 billion per year to costs attributed to child illnesses and deaths, impaired cognitive development and physical under-development caused by malnutrition. Reference: Cost of Hunger in Africa Studies

Investing in nutrition is a cost-effective initiative and critical for Africa’s economic and human capital development. For very US $1 invested in nutrition there is a US $16 return upon investment in health, education and productivity outcomes. Reference: An Investment Framework for Nutrition

The most critical time to invest in nutrition is during the first 1,000 days – from conception to 24 months of age, when important building blocks for brain development, growth and immune system occur. Reference: Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries