AFRICA: Fighting the double whammy of obesity and hunger

Published on IRIN, by ts/ey/mw, June 21, 2010.

… Africa faces a double burden of obesity and hunger as millions take up increasingly sedentary lives in cities and the global financial crisis hits rural populations’ food security, nutritionists warn.

Under-nutrition continues to plague sub-Saharan Africa, where 32 percent of the world’s hungry people live. However, those migrating from the countryside to cities are eating too much fatty food, leading to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure, delegates at the International Congress of Nutrition ICN in Bangkok were told.

“The problem in Africa is [that] both under- and over-nutrition are the worst in the world. We really are facing a double burden,” Hester Vorster, of the Centre for Excellence in Nutrition at South Africa’s North-West University, told the congress, which runs until 9 October.

“Over-nutrition is much the same thing as what we see in the west. Significant numbers of Africans have migrated to the cities and they are eating the wrong foods. So for Africa, the burden of disease is increasing all the time,” Jean-Claude Mbanya of the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon, and president-elect of the Belgium-based International Diabetes Federation, said … //

… Meanwhile, lower-income countries continue to suffer mainly from under-nutrition, which has actually increased over the past five years, thanks to the food price crisis of 2008 and the global financial crisis, Delisle said.

Obesity on the rise:

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) show how obesity has risen while under-nutrition has persisted in some countries.

In Madagascar in 1992, just 1.6 percent of children were overweight, while 35.5 percent were underweight and 60.9 percent suffered stunted growth. By 2004, 6.2 percent of children were overweight while 36.8 percent were underweight, and 52.8 percent were stunted.

The rate of overweight and obese women also doubled between 1997 and 2004, to 8.1 percent overall.

And in 1987, 5.5 percent of Moroccan children were overweight; by 2004, that figure had increased to 13.3 percent … (full text).

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