Saturday, June 22, 2024

Over 1,4m Batswana cannot afford a healthy diet

Batswana cannot afford healthy food options, making it difficult for the country to fight malnutrition and obesity.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023 report contains sobering findings. According to the report, 1 414 000 million Batswana or 60.3% of the total population could not afford a healthy diet in 2021.

And while this information might not be new, it is alarming to note that the number of Batswana who cannot afford a healthy diet has essentially plateaued since 2017 and is now hovering at nearly 60 percent. The cost of a healthy diet in Botswana is estimated at P50.01 (U$3,83).

In addition, the report notes that nutritious diet was out of reach for 63.2 percent of Botswana’s population in 2017, falling to 60.8 percent in 2018, 59.8 percent in 2019, 63.4 percent in 2020, and then 60.3 percent in 2021.

The 2023 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World edition provides updates on the global food security and nutrition status, as well as the most recent estimates of the price and accessibility of a healthy diet. The report gives an update on worldwide progress toward the SDG targets of ending hunger (SDG Target 2.1) and eradicating all forms of malnutrition (SDG Target 2.2), as well as estimates of the number of people who cannot afford a healthy diet.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations specialised agency responsible for international public health – a healthy diet “helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs)”. It also provides the body with essential nutrition such as fluids, macronutrients, micronutrients, and adequate calories and helps to improve overall health. The (un)affordability is determined by comparing the cost of a healthy diet to the country’s income levels. The diet is considered unaffordable if the cost exceeds 52% of the average household’s income.

The FAO report establishes that the problem of poor nutrition in Botswana is primarily due to the unaffordability of healthy meals, rather than a lack of nutrition information. Previous research by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows that nutrient-rich non-staple foods are ten times more expensive than staple meals in the majority of poor countries. Due to Covid-19’s impact on some people’s salaries, scores of households in Botswana have opted to purchasing low-cost, calorie-dense foods in order to maintain quantity rather than quality. As a result, anaemia, stunting, wasting, and other nutritional deficiencies are quite likely to remain prevalent.

Prior studies undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic indicated that malnutrition will increase due to decreased household incomes, changes in the accessibility and price of nutrient-dense foods, and disruptions in social protection, health, and nutrition services.

Among other things, the report states that on average, 67.0 percent of people in southern Africa could not afford a healthy food in 2021, compared to 44.2 percent in Asia, 22.7 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 22.2% in Central America, and 2.9 percent in Oceania.

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