Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 December 2006
Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world. However, policy-makers do not always recognise the fight against malnutrition as a policy priority to ensure the healthy human capital needed to fight poverty and achieve sustained positive economic growth.
The analysis presented here was conducted by an intersectoral and inter-agency group of Sierra Leonean senior policy advisors to quantify some of the potential human and economic benefits of improved policies and programmes to reduce malnutrition.
The analysis revealed that 46% of child deaths in Sierra Leone are attributable to malnutrition, the single greatest cause of child mortality in the country. In the absence of adequate policy and programme action, malnutrition will be the underlying cause of an estimated 74000 child deaths over the next five years. The analysis also revealed that if current levels of iodine deficiency remain unchanged over the next five years, 252000 children could be born with varying degrees of mental retardation as a result of intrauterine iodine deficiency. Finally, the analysis showed that, in the absence of adequate policy and programme action to reduce the unacceptable rates of anaemia in women, the monetary value of agricultural productivity losses associated with anaemia in the female labour force over the next five years will exceed $94.5 million.
Sustained investment in nutrition in Sierra Leone could bring about enormous human and economic benefits to develop the social sector, revitalise the economy, and attain the poverty reduction goals that Sierra Leone has set forth.