Over the past decade, Ethiopia has made significant progress in improving its population health and has achieved impressive economic growth. A testament to this is the significant decrease in stunting rates from 58% to 38% between 2000 and 2016. However, malnutrition remains a major public health challenge, which translates into huge economic and societal costs. It is estimated that Ethiopia loses over 16% of its gross domestic product every year due to undernutrition. Ethiopian children consume one of the least diverse diets in sub-Saharan Africa and, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), about 28% of all child mortality in the country is associated with undernutrition.
In response to these challenges, in 2016 the Government of Ethiopia signed the Seqota Declaration, an ambitious plan to end child undernutrition by 2030. Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the main objective of the Declaration is to end stunting in all children under two years of age. Currently in its first phase (the “innovative phase”), the programme seeks to gather learnings from government, ministries and development partners through “community labs”. The goal is to expand these activities as of 2021.
Going forward, engaging with businesses will be key to improve the nutritional status of the Ethiopian population. Following global trends - although not as severely - overweight (21%) and obesity (4.5%) are growing concerns. Ensuring that undernutrition is eradicated whilst balancing the effects of overnutrition will be of paramount importance in the coming decade.
Ethiopia is poised for sustained economic growth and growing prosperity. To realise this vision, the burden of malnutrition must be addressed in the country. In particular, Ethiopia will need to improve the quality of people’s diets and promote the consumption of nutritious and safe foods for all.
Ending malnutrition is a collective responsibility and our programmes reflect the choices we have made to contribute to this goal. In Ethiopia, we focus primarily on Better Diets for Children, Large-Scale Food Fortification, and Reducing Postharvest Loss. Going forward, we will continue to support the Government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders working on improving nutrition - from civil society, businesses and development partners - to build stronger and healthier food systems for a more equal society.