The economy of Ghana has been losing some $2.6 billion annually – or 6.4 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) – due to child undernutrition, according to a new United Nations study launched today in the country’s capital, Accra.

“In the Northern Region of Ghana, 30 per cent of children under five are stunted or chronically malnourished. This not only affects their growth but also their educational development and economic potential, and consequently the future of the country,” said Margot van der Velden, the World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa said in a press statement.

According to the report, The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition on Ghana’s Long-Term Development (COHA), vast amounts are being lost through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens on the education system and lower productivity by its workforce.

When children miss out on critical nutrients, including proteins, vitamins and minerals, it hinders growth while in the womb and during the first two years of life – and causes stunting, which is of particular concern.

“People affected by stunting face lifelong consequences starting in childhood, such as frequent illness, poor school performance, having to repeat classes or dropping out altogether, and low workplace productivity,” the report elaborated.