Investment in better nutrition is needed in Afghanistan as more than 40 per cent of Afghan children are stunted. Stunting in early life is a marker of poor child growth and development and will reduce their potential to contribute toward their country’s growth and prosperity.
Recently, South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Ministry of Public Health, the World Bank and UNICEF have partnered to help the Afghan government invest in better nutrition and determine what it would take to reach more children, women, and their families and provide them with essential nutrition services that would reduce stunting, anemia and loss of life.
In a recently published working paper, Investment Framework for Nutrition in Afghanistan that has been funded through the contributions of United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the European Commission through the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security, the total public investment required to scale up nutrition interventions is estimated to be $44 million a year for five years. This scale-up is estimated to prevent around 25,000 child deaths and over 4,000 cases of stunting and avert a loss of 6, 40,000 disability-adjusted life years and almost 90,000 cases years of anemia.
However, this scale-up would only have a marginal effect, a decrease of less than one-half percentage point-on stunting prevalence because the current government-set target program coverage rates are very low for the preventive interventions that affect stunting.
The paper recommends that in order to achieve substantially greater impact on reducing malnutrition, prevention interventions in the BPHS package should be scaled up to full program coverage levels rather than the targets currently set by the government.
It further recommends that in order to maximize the impact of the BPHS package, the expansion of prevention interventions should be prioritized in the scale-up. These include interventions that would foster breastfeeding, reduce vitamin A deficiency in children and women of reproductive age, and decrease the high prevalence of anemia in adolescents and women across the country.