A consensus on malnutrition in Africa: a report from the micronutrient deficiency awareness forum (Nairobi 2017)
While most forms of malnutrition are easy to identify at an early age, micronutrient deficiency also manifests in form of “Hidden Hunger”, where children could seem to be well fed, but still suffer from deficiencies due to lack of key micronutrients in their diets whose absence is hard to detect. While the symptoms of micronutrient deficiency may not be obvious in the short-term, they translate into cognitive deficiencies in the longterm that negatively affect the economic productivity of these infants when they become adults, perpetuating the malnutrition cycle. The Micronutrient Deficiency Awareness Forum was held in April 2017 in Nairobi Kenya, comprising seven specialties from across sub-Saharan Africa. The forum was convened to discuss how to increase awareness of conditions associated with micronutrient deficiencies developing from early childhood, especially those impacting brain development, identify sections of the population that were at high risk of micronutrient deficiencies, outline available guidelines on diagnostic tools, assessment and management of deficiencies, and develop a consensus on best practices in diagnosing, managing, and preventing micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition. It is estimated that 40% of the children in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by stunting, which is the most prevalent form of malnutrition, and an estimated 69-82% of malnutrition cases are not properly treated. This phenomenon is not without a cost, as malnutrition greatly undermines cognitive development, and ultimately economic productivity. A 2014 study revealed that Ethiopia lost the equivalent of 12% of its GDP to malnutrition in 2009. Studies in different countries across the world have shown that focused interventions work. For instance, early childhood macronutrient intervention led to a 46% higher wage in adult years in Guatemala. The Micronutrient Deficiency Awareness Forum 2017 Consensus Report provides suggestions on policy design and implementation strategies that may lead to early detection, treatment, and ultimately prevalence reduction of malnutrition across the region.
Keywords: Malnutrition, Micronutrient Deficiency, Kenya, Africa, Nutrition, Infant Screening, Supplementation