Sunday, May 26, 2024

Botswana, where starvation lingers amid plenty of food in the market

In the land where malnutrition among children is dominant there is a plenty of food in the market that poor households are unable to access due to high prices while the situation also present a new pattern of adolescent obesity in Botswana.

Botswana as an upper middle income country is among emerging economies where under nutrition co-exist with over nutrition.

This double burden that comes with under nutrition and overweight among children in Botswana signal a reality on how the government is likely to dig deep on public coffers to circumvent ailments that come as result of under nutrition and overweight among young children.

The World Bank report titled “Nutrition at glance Botswana” states that the public coffers has been the last resort in addressing the burden that comes with under nutrition in the past which has left some scars on GDP as the government loses US$78 million in GDP to vitamin and mineral deficiencies while over nutrition which was not given much attention is likely to balloon government spending.

The report warns that while the government has been digging deep on public coffers pocket to address under nutrition the burden of over nutrition also seems to paint a bad picture on how the public purse could rise to treat ailments as a result of overweight.

The World Bank report stated that Botswana as a middle income country finds itself put in a tight corner to overcome malnutrition which has been blamed on poverty while challenges of overweight which has been blamed on rapid urbanisation and the adoption of western diets high in refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and sugars combined with more sedentary lifestyle are commonly cited as the major contributors to the increase in overweight and chronic diseases.

The World Bank argues that 26 percent of households in Botswana are food insecure using a measure of per capita access to calories.

The World Bank is supported by Macalaster College, Geography Department Professor’s argument that despite plenty of food in the market many poor households lack access to diverse diets year around.

According to World Bank report achieving food security means ensuring quality and continuity of food access in addition to quantity for all household members.

Macalaster College Geography Department  Professor William Moseley research paper titled “ Agriculture on the Brink:Climate Change,Labor and Smallholder Farming in Botswana”  state that even if there is plenty of food on the market poor households may not be able to access what is sold in the market due to high prizes and low incomes.

He states that this is particularly relevant in the case of Botswana because food had not been in short supply due to ample imports, but prices spiked in 2007ÔÇô2008 and 2011ÔÇô2012 because of global market conditions.

He argues that despite being a middle-income country Botswana has segments of its population which suffer from the interlinked phenomena of persistent poverty and food insecurity.

Moseley is of the view that Botswana’s Gini index of 63 means that it has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world along with neighbouring South Africa and Namibia.

According to Moseley the persistent poverty and food insecurity are accentuated when food prices rise something which is a particular issue for Botswana given its exposure to global food price punctuations resulting from a very high dependence on imported food.

Moseley’s argument supports the argument that poverty among household has been attributed to malnutrition among children.

The World Bank state that currently 29 percent of children under the age of five are stunted, 11 percent are underweight,6 percent are wasted,48 percent of those aged 15 are overweight and obese while 10 percent of infants are born with a low birth weight in Botswana.


Read this week's paper