Thursday, May 07, 2015

Angola's Stunted Children

Angola is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest economy. Porsche dealerships and Armani shops cater to members of the elite under President Jose Eduardo dos Santo’s 35-year rule while two-thirds of the nation’s people live in slums or impoverished rural settlements, often without running water and electricity. Africa’s second-biggest crude oil producer has the world’s highest rate of child mortality under the age of 5: 167 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). That’s one in six.

Sub-Saharan Africa hosts all 12 countries where more than 10% of children die before their fifth birthday, according to UNICEF. Sierra Leone is second, followed by Chad, Somalia and Central African Republic (CAR). Nigeria, which has the region’s largest economy and population with about 170 million people, is ninth. Angola is by far the richest country among African countries with the highest child mortality, with gross national income per capita of $5,170 in 2013, according to the World Bank. Nigeria, which pumped 2.1 million barrels of oil a day in March compared with Angola’s 1.84 million, earned $2,710 per person two years ago. In Somalia income per person is just $150. The figures for Chad, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone are all less than a fifth of Angola’s wealth.

About 30% of children in the southwest African country are stunted because of malnutrition, according to a 2007 government survey. The figure may be higher now because there are fewer aid agencies. For about two-thirds of Angolans living on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank, funge is a staple often made from cassava roots that have few nutrients.

Malnutrition stunts growth and causes about half of child deaths under 5, according to Maria Futi Tati, head of nutrition at Angola’s Ministry of Health. “It is not due to lack of food,” Tati said. “The problem resides in poverty and lack of meal diversification. You can’t be healthy when you only eat rice and funge and a lot of families just have one meal a day

“Cassava is indeed next to nutritionally useless,” Stephen Foster, a doctor who runs a private hospital in Lubango. 

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