Did you know that 9 out of 10 African children (below the age of 2) do not meet the criteria for minimum acceptable diet outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO)? I’m pretty sure your answer is NO.
Child malnutrition has been a major problem in Africa for several decades. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 6 million children in West and Central Africa are affected by severe life-threatening malnutrition, and a large percentage of these children are below the age of five. While nutrition figures over the years suggest that there has been massive improvements in child nutrition on a global scale, it is troubling to know that Africa is still being left behind in this fight.
Before now, poverty, conflict and climate change have been highlighted as the main causes of child malnutrition in Africa. However, a recent research published by the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) show that the level of women empowerment in a region could have direct impact on child nutrition. Using Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria, as case study, 4 researchers were able to prove that empowering women in rural African communities could improve child nutrition by a large extent.
Below are some of the key findings of the study:
1. Most women living in rural areas across Nigeria have low bargaining power. While many of these women work, they still face economic exclusion as their jobs are underpaid, undervalued and mostly found in the informal sector.
2. Women’s low bargaining power could be attributed to pre-existing cultural and social norms in most part of these regions which discriminates against women empowerment and education.
3. Child stunting will reduce if the primary female decision-maker is a) empowered through access to adequate education, both formal and informal; and b) allowed to make major household decisions about agricultural production activities and how income generated could be used to address the needs of the children.
4. An increase in the level of women empowerment does not only increase food security but also reduce household hunger.
5. Widespread child stunting/malnutrition in rural households across the country could be efficiently and effectively addressed if public policies are envisioned to improve women empowerment through education.
Summarily, the study advocates for the government and society at large to empower women through education in order to address widespread child malnutrition in rural households across Nigeria and similar African countries. What are your thoughts?
Still Craving? Find out more about this research experiment and the results on AERC Africa
Author Credit: Ima-Abasi Joseph Pius