Although the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an increase in food prices, well before the pandemic about 6 in 10 Batswana could not afford even the cheapest options for a healthy diet.
This claim is contained in the 2020 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) State of Food Security and nutrition in the World which highlights that 64.5 percent of Batswana cannot afford a healthy diet.
The report also states that majority of Batswana above the international poverty line of $1.90 purchasing power parity (PPP) per person per day cannot afford a healthy or nutritious diet. The analysis by FAO settles the fact that the problem of poor nutrition in Botswana is essentially on account of the unaffordability of good diets, and not on account of lack of information on nutrition.
Furthermore, the report highlights that 32.8 percent of household income is channelled towards food expenditure. And while Covid-19 and Covid-20 may be far from over, it is increasingly becoming clearer that the pandemic is expected to pose nutritional risks to Botswana in the short and long term. Prior to the pandemic, Botswana was already struggling with a double burden of malnutrition extremes. Various global fora such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and SADC Secretariat’s Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA) Programme have it on good record that the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) in Botswana is pegged at 22.5%.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 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.
Studies conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) highlight that that nutrient-rich non-staple foods are ten times more expensive than staple foods in most poor countries. According to FAO a nutrient-adequate diet (a balanced diet which contributes to achieve or maintain a good state of health) costs P23.31 a day which is more than the international poverty line currently set at P20.89 a day.
Although the prevalence of under-nutrition measures progress towards Sustainable Development Goal Target 2.1 which aims to end hunger and ensure access by all people, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round by 2030, the 2020 Global Nutrition Report Action on equity to end malnutrition highlights that Botswana will not meet the 2025 global nutritional target of achieving “a 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted”, adding that Botswana will also not be able to reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5% by 2025.