A rise in adult obesity levels in the East Africa’s urban centres are taking a toll on efforts to tackle malnutrition, while undernourishment rates also remain a major concern.
Recent regional estimates by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) show figures for adult overweight rates for most countries in the region range between 15 and 35 per cent.
This means that one in four out of every 10 adults in the region is either overweight or obese.
“This is an emerging nutrition challenge and it’s starting to become a major concern especially in urban centres. Obesity comes with the risk of cardio-vascular diseases like blood pressure, heart problems among others,” said head of FAO’s sub-regional resilience team for East Africa Angela Kimani at a conference in Kigali.
Experts cite the rapid urbanisation taking place in the continent and its associated nutritional transition as being the drivers of rising obesity in the region where figures show that undernourishment levels generally rose in the past decade.
Official statistics for Rwanda show being overweight or obese has generally increased since 2005, from 12 per cent to 21 per cent in 2014-2015.
More women than men in Kigali are obese. Similarly, regional cities like Kampala and Nairobi are also estimated to have doubled in obesity rates over the past decade.
Manasseh Wandera, the executive director at Society for Family Health, a local non-profit organisation involved in digital marketing for healthier living told Rwanda Today that the trends were a reflection of higher income rates and the associated changes in lifestyles, decreased physical activity and unhealthy diets.
The Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2017 report shows that the region’s countries battle a twin burden of malnutrition, which occurs as a result of inadequate or unbalanced diet as well as excessive consumption of macronutrients.
Despite obesity and overweight rates remaining below stunting rates, they were rising at an accelerating rate.