ANTANANARIVO, March 7, 2018 - There is no school on Wednesday afternoons in Madagascar. Six-year-old Miranto heads home to find his friend Sitraka waiting for him as usual on his doorstep. We are in the commune of Ambohimidasy Itaosy, five kilometers from the capital. Sitraka has been waiting since 11 a.m. to go play with him. Both boys were born on June 2, 2011 but Sitraka is stunted and does not go to school. “Sitraka speaks but his sentences are incoherent, and he is not yet fully independent,” notes his mother, Mariette Rasoanirina, who sells brèdes, a dish of edible vegetable leaves.
“I wouldn’t dream of sending Sitraka to school because he is still not fully potty-trained and has difficulty expressing himself. Sometimes even I, his mother, can’t understand a word he is saying. He only started walking at the age of four, and he even had wounds on his feet from crawling,” she adds.
An impediment to a country’s human development
Sitraka is suffering from chronic malnutrition, a silent yet deadly disease affecting 47 percent of children under five in Madagascar, which has the fourth highest chronic malnutrition rate in the world. And yet, this disease has myriad consequences that persist into adulthood and adversely affect the future of an entire country, starting with its economic prospects. In Madagascar, the estimated annual cost of malnutrition is between 7 and 12 percent of GDP.
Chronic malnutrition is the main impediment standing in the way of optimal growth and development. UNICEF reports that the chronically malnourished are at risk of becoming disabled or having an intellectual disability, and will be more susceptible to other diseases.
In a bid to tackle this issue and bolster human capital, the World Bank has in recent years been supporting efforts to combat malnutrition in Madagascar.