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Mapping hunger and education in Africa

D. Willetts / Wikimedia Commons Schoolchildren at the Kakuma refugee camp in KenyaD. Willetts / Wikimedia Commons

Infant malnutrition decreased in most African countries between 2000 and 2015, especially those in eastern and southern sub-Saharan Africa, although there are still regional disparities. Chad and Somalia received less international support for child health, suffered long periods of civil conflict, and made more modest progress, according to a survey on malnutrition in 51 African countries coordinated by Simon Hay, from the University of Washington, USA (Nature, February 28). Conducted in collaboration with experts from the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, both in the UK, the study on nutrition and child health suggests that none of the countries are on course to meet the United Nations goal of ending malnutrition by 2030. Using census data on the weight, height, and educational level of children from thousands of villages, the researchers created detailed maps that also revealed large educational disparities between genders and locations. In one region of Chad, boys go to school for an average of five to six years longer than girls. In the south of Kenya, children go to school for an average of 11 years, while in rural communities in the northeast of the country, the average falls to 2 years. In an article published in the same issue of Nature, Ghanaian Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that this type of data could help governments and international agencies target their efforts to improve education and nutrition in Africa.