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Malnutrition, overweight and obesity cost Guatemala dearly

ByMicheal Johnson

Sep 30, 2020

Guatemala loses some 12,000 million dollars a year, 16.3% of its GDP, due to the economic, social and health impacts related to malnutrition, overweight and obesity, says a new study of the World Food Program (PMA) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The report highlights that, in 2018, the health cost of malnutrition and related diseases amounted to more than 365 million dollars, representing 45% of the total 2018 budget of the Ministry of Public Health. In addition, the cost of overweight, obesity and related diseases reached 3.5 billion dollars and is equivalent to four times the total 2018 budget of that entity.

“Malnutrition, as well as overweight and obesity are a great burden for the Guatemalan State and society. This evidence shows us that we cannot continue to lose valuable resources that could make a great difference in development and prosperity,” said Miguel Barreto, WFP regional director.

Barreto assured that, to respond to the challenge, addressing malnutrition in Guatemala should be a priority for all, since it directly or indirectly affects all people.

“In recent decades, the double burden of malnutrition has increasingly affected the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular the population in situations of poverty and vulnerability,” reported ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, during the presentation of the study.

He added that it is one more factor of the inequality in force in the region, whose repercussions have been shown in an important way with the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bárcena called on countries “to invest in public policies that allow progress towards a recovery from the crisis on the principles of the 2030 Agenda.”

IOM / Ester Vargas

A street sweeper cleans the streets of the Palacion Maya in the city of San Marcos in Guatemala.

Weight on intelligence

The report highlights that the so-called “double burden of malnutrition” also has a negative impact on the intellectual development of the population.

In 2018, more than 100,000 students repeated a grade and estimates suggest that about 45% of the causes are related to malnutrition. Only nine out of every 100 girls and boys with malnutrition manage to finish their primary studies.

It is estimated that the total cost per every time a child or adolescent repeats a grade it is close to $ 1,000, of which almost 700 are assumed by the educational system and 300 by the family.

“The next 25 to 30 years depend on our current actions to accelerate the reduction of malnutrition,” said Guatemala’s Secretary of Food and Nutrition Security, Maritza Méndez.

“We must act now so that the future workforce is made up of healthy people, a population that has a better quality of life with their families and communities,” he added.

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