The social and economic impact of child undernutrition in Swaziland: implications of child undernutrition for the implementation of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy in Swaziland

Swaziland Government. Deputy Prime Minister's Office.
Series title: 
The Cost of Hunger in Africa

The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA)is an African Union Commission (AUC)-led initiative through which countries are able to estimate the social and economic impacts of child undernutrition. Twelve countries are participating in the study. Swaziland is part of the four first-phase countries.

The COHA study illustrates that child undernutrition is not only a social but also an economic issue, as countries are losing significant sums of money as a result of current and past child undernutrition. The COHA study in Swaziland is led by the National Children's Coordination Unit in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (NCCU/ODPM) with support from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Swaziland National Nutrition Council (SNNC), University of Swaziland and the World Food Programme Swaziland. These departments and ministries make up the National Implementation Team (NIT).

During the process, all data for the study was collected from national data sources including the Swaziland Labour Force Survey 2007, Demographic and Health Survey 2008 and previous DHS studies, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, African Centre for Statistics, and primary data collection. 


Overall results in Swaziland show that an estimated SZL 783 million (US$ 92 million) was lost in the year 2009 as a result of child undernutrition. This is equivalent to 3.1% of GDP.

• For 2009, there were an estimated 25 thousand additional clinical episodes associated to undernutrition in children under five, which incurred a cost of an estimated SZL 61 million (US$ 7.1 million). Cases of diarrhea, fever, respiratory infections and anemia totaled 6 thousand episodes in addition to the 19 thousand cases of underweight children. According to the data estimated, only 31% ot these episodes received proper health attention.

• Underweight in children increased the mortality rates in the country; undernutrition was associated to 8% of all child mortalities in the last 5 years, totaling over 1,300 deaths.

• Stunted children have a higher grade repetition rate, at 18.9% than non-stunted children, at 14%. This incremental rate generated 5,550 additional cases of grade repetition in which the education system and families incurred a cost of SZL 6.0 million (US$ 702,000).

• Stunted children in Swaziland are also more likely to drop out of school. Average schooling achievement for a person who was stunted as a child is 0.77 years lower than for a person who was never undernourished. This disadvantage in the labor market is estimated to have generated private costs of SZL 251 million (US$ 29.5 million) in potential productivity.

• Forty percent of adults in Swaziland are stunted. This represented more than 270,000 people of working age that are not able to achieve their potential, as a consequence of child undernutrition. In rural Swaziland, where most people are engaged in manual activities, it is estimated that in 2009 alone SZL 126 million (US$ 14.8) were not produced due to lower physical capacity of this group.

• Lastly, an estimated 37 million working hours were lost in 2009 due to people who were absent from the workforce as a result of nutrition-related mortalities. This represents SZL 340 million (US$ 40 million), which is equivalent to 1.4% of the country’s GDP.


Library code: 
Classification no: 
Economic and Social Aspects
Special Collections: Swazi Focus
Accession no: 
Type of material: 
Research Report
Publication details: 
Addis Ababa: African Union Commission