International organizations called for greater availability in Africa of affordable and healthy food in a new report released on Wednesday
“Africa’s agri-food systems must be transformed to make healthy diets more affordable for Africans,” said a press release on the report, published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Union Commission (AUC).
The release cited the latest Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition as finding that people on the continent face “some of the highest food costs when compared to other regions of a similar level of development.”
According to the report, nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins, are relatively expensive when compared to staples such as cereals and starchy roots and, the report argues, some of the reasons for this are systemic.
Nearly three-quarters of the African population cannot afford a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and animal proteins, and more than half cannot afford a nutrient-adequate diet, which provides a mix of carbohydrates, protein, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals to maintain basic health, it said.
“Even an energy-sufficient diet, which supplies a bare minimum of energy and little else, is out of reach for over 10 percent of the continent’s population,” it added.
In a separate press release by UNECA, the FAO’s Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel was quoted as saying: “The picture that emerges is that the agri-food systems in Africa do not provide food at a cost that makes healthy diets affordable to the majority of the population, and this is reflected in the high disease burden associated with maternal and child malnutrition, high body-mass, micronutrient deficiencies and dietary risk factors.”
The noted that Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the number of stunted children continues to rise.
“Although the prevalence of stunting is declining, it is falling only very slowly and despite progress, nearly a third of the children in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted,” said the report.
Only three countries, Eswatini, Kenya and Sao Tome and Principe, are on course to meet four of the five World Health Assembly nutrition targets. Three other countries, Ghana, Lesotho and Rwanda, are on track to meet three of these targets, it indicated.