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Children Malnutrition and Horizontal Inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Focus on Contrasting Domestic Trajectories

Apr 1, 2013

Over the past two decades Sub-Saharan African countries have experienced accelerated economic growth. This positive trend represents a huge opportunity to improve the living standards of millions of Africans and foster inclusive and sustainable development. At the regional level however, such improvements do not seem to have translated into higher human development. Child malnutrition indicators in particular have registered some relatively limited advances. This paper contributes to the literature by providing a more accurate and nuanced view on the progress made with regards to child malnutrition and inequalities across Sub-Saharan Africa.


Focusing on a sample of seven countries – Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria this studies analyzes the evolution of three anthropometric indicators: underweight, stunting and wasting, and elaborates a classification of countries based on how inequalities in child malnutrition have changed over the past two decades. Three main types of trajectories can be identified: first, the case of countries where improvements in aggregate malnutrition have been offset by large increases in inequality (Cameroon, Rwanda and Nigeria); second, the case of countries where progress in malnutrition has translated into modest reductions in inequality (Kenya); third, the case of countries that have been successful in reducing both aggregate malnutrition and inequality (Burkina Faso, Malawi and Ghana).One strong finding of the analysis is that the countries that have registered the highest improvements in overall malnutrition rates are not the countries that have experienced the highest growth rates, indicating that changes in malnutrition are not proportionate to the pace of economic growth. Furthermore, the countries that managed to reduce inequalities the most were not systematically the ones with the highest growth rates either, indicating that policies need to address the constraints of the most vulnerable households for growth to be both nutrition-sensitive and inclusive.

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