Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Soaring food prices cause surge in malnutrition – IFPRI

With the impact of Covid-19 just beginning, and the end is nowhere in sight, 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. However, the arrival of the pandemic has exacerbated an already bad situation, says the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries says high food prices could help explain why countries such as Botswana continue to struggle with a double burden of malnutrition extremes. 

The report states in clear cut terms that most people in developing do not only have low income, but also live in poor food systems where their money cannot buy them the healthy and nutritious food they really want.

Malnutrition is a condition that results from eating a diet which does not supply a healthy amount of calories, protein and micronutrients. This includes diets that have too little nutrients or so many that the diet causes health problems. Malnutrition also covers issues such as under-nutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age).

In their study IFPRI state that the majority of non-cereal foods and nutritious foods is quite expensive in low-income countries. Research done prior to this report mainly focused on the link between nutritious food prices and obesity, however this research is the first to study the link between food prices and under-nutrition. 

IFPRI compared more than 657 food products using the World Bank’s International Comparison Program (ICP). ICP is a worldwide initiative under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission and is the main statistical resource for surveying prices of highly standardised (comparable) goods and services that are widely consumed across a region or globally.

A 2020 analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlights 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 which was done pre-Covid 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. 

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