Food insecurity not only compromises your health and resilience. It brings along poor school attendance and educational attainment that thwart your future chances in life. Researchers from the Institute of Tropical Medicine for the first time confirmed this, in two thousand Ethiopian teenagers.
It appears self-evident that having not enough food not only affects your growth and health, but also your performance at school. Strangely enough, nobody ever investigated the actual effects of food scarcity on the educational career of children in a developing country. Scientists of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, together with colleagues from Jimma University (Ethiopia) and Brown University (USA), followed 2084 Ethiopian youngsters between 13 and 17 for two years. Ethiopia regularly is affected by food shortage, so the researchers could compare children with and without food insecurity. They measured absenteeism and noted the grade the children attained in the year after the hungry period.
One in three food insecure children skipped school for one or more days, compared to one in five of their food secure peers. In other words: they stayed away 1.8 times more often. Not to play truant, but mostly to help their parents in obtaining food or money.
Food insecure children also clearly showed a lower educational attainment. In the period under observation, one in four food insecure children finished primary school (grade 8), against one in three children without food problems.
This kind of consequences of a food insecure period stay with you for years, or even for life.
The researchers considered a teenager as 'food insecure' when in the last three months he or she had worried about having enough food, had to reduce food intake or go without eating (because of shortage of food or money), or had to beg for food. They fear the problem will get worse, because of mounting food prices.
- Tefera Belachew, Craig Hadley, David Lindstrom, Abebe Gebremariam, Carl Lachat and Patrick Kolsteren. Food insecurity, school absenteeism and educational attainment of adolescents in Jimma Zone Southwest Ethiopia: a longitudinal study. Nutrition Journal, 2011, 10:29 DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-29
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