By Sara Aggour
A recent study conducted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated total losses suffered by Egypt in 2009 from children’s malnutrition to have reached EGP 20.3 billion, equaling to 1.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The study, which was based on data received from official institutions such the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center, draws links between social and economic consequences of child malnutrition and increased health care costs due to illness. It also calls attention to the increased educational burden as a result of “higher repetition and early dropout rates which in turn contribute to reduced labour productivity.”
The analysis showed that Egyptian families bear the bigger share of health costs with 73% (about EGP 849m) falling on them, while the remaining 27% (EGP 321 million) are costs handled by the Egyptian healthcare system.
Aside from health costs and concerns, stunted children face educational problems such as grade repetition and dropouts, the study showed. Family expenditure on education related issues that year is said to be EGP 107m, while the bigger share goes to the public system with costs estimated at as much as EGP 164m.
The highest costs are those connected to productivity and how it can be affected by malnutrition. For manual and non-manual activities and lost working hours, costs are estimated at EGP 20.3bn. This number represents almost 1.03% of the GDP, the report said.
Statistics accumulated showed that 51% of the costs associated with malnutrition occur before the child turns a year old, and that 11% of child deaths occur due to improper nutrition. Placing the elimination of child malnutrition as pivotal for Egypt’s development, the study attributed 10% of educational repetition in primary schools to that element.
The reduction of the current levels of undernourished children by half could save up to EGP 732m annually, the study said, while a reduction to 10% could yield an average annual saving of an EGP 907bn.
According to the same research, 81% of all cases of prolonged malnutrition and malnutrition and their related pathologies go untreated.