Healthy Diet Remains Unaffordable for Most Africans, a new report says

The majority of Africa’s population – about 78 percent, or more than one billion people – remain unable to afford a healthy diet, according to a new joint report by the African Union and three UN agencies.

The report – Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition – Statistics and Trends 2023 – says the number is much higher than the 42 percent global estimate, and it is rising.

“The average cost of a healthy diet has been increasing over time,” the report says.

In 2021, the purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars per person per day was at $3.57, which is much higher than the extreme poverty threshold of USD 2.15 per person per day.

“This means that not only the poor but also a large proportion of people defined as non-poor cannot afford a healthy diet in Africa,” the report stated.

Western Africa and Eastern Africa had the largest cumulative increases in the cost of a healthy diet between 2019 and 2021.

The report also highlights alarming statistics on food insecurity and malnutrition that underscore the urgent need for comprehensive action.

Nearly 282 million people in Africa are undernourished, an increase of 57 million people since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Around 30 percent of children are stunted because of malnutrition.

“The deterioration of the food security situation and the lack of progress towards the WHO global nutrition targets make it imperative for countries to step up their efforts if they are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030,” FAO’s Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel said in the report’s joint foreword.

The report also has a note of good news.

The prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in Africa is high in Eastern Africa, with considerable progress made in Central Africa and Western Africa since 2012.

However, the continent remains off-track to meet the food security and nutrition targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and the Malabo targets of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2025.

The report is a joint initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the World Food Program (WFP).

The agencies expect the report’s findings to trigger new momentum for agrifood systems transformation in Africa.

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