By Kudakwashe Pembere
STUNTING is proving to be a big menace to proper child nutrition, growth and development in Zimbabwe and if not nipped, could lead to a double burden of child malnutrition and over nutrition, a Food and Nutrition Council official has said.
The World Health Organisation defines stunting as the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
Speaking to HealthTimes on the sidelines of the World Food Programme/FNC/ district risk profiles, FNC head of programmes Blessing Butaumocho said Zimbabwe is facing a huge challenge of dealing with stunting in children. He said Zimbabwe is not performing well when dealing with stunting.
“On child nutrition one of the biggest problems that we continue to have is stunting. You know when you look at the problem of child malnutrition it is measured using prevalence of stunting, prevalence of wasting, prevalence of underweight, prevalence of overweight. The area where we have not performed very well across the country across all districts is the area of stunting,” he said.
He added that Zimbabwe is ranked poorly in the world.
“Upwards of 25 percent across all provinces, across all districts in fact, at national level we are looking at our stunting level at 27 percent. And this is really of primary concern and this is a problem that we have not managed to make any meaningful progress. If you go back to the 1980s going into 1990s we were always above 30 percent. And so, we need to address that it’s a big problem,” said Butaumocho.
Butaumocho also said the nation should look out for double burden, a combination of malnutrition and overnutrition in children.
“But complementary to that alongside with other African countries, we are also seeing a complementary growth of a double burden. A double burden is where we have malnutrition challenge but as well as over nutrition challenges. We also see children that are obese increasing and these are two areas that we need to be watchful of and to address and they are essentially recognized as public health challenges,” he said.
With the country progressing well in ensuring that Vitamin A is given to children, Butaumocho noted there is a high level of iron deficiency which need fixing.
“The other things that I didn’t talk about on child nutrition which are also pertinent in this discussion are related to micronutrient deficiencies. We are doing fairly well on Vitamin A, we need to look at how can do better on Iron deficiency. This is an area that we need to be careful on and address.
In his speech during the launch at Rainbow Towers Hotel on 31 July 2017, Justin Mupamhanga, the Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet said there was a need for food and nutrition security information system since extreme weather events had recurrently distressed the diverse livelihoods of the rural population in Zimbabwe.
“Compounding factors that include climate change, chronic diseases, high poverty levels, among others, have contributed to increased livelihood vulnerability, food insecurity, chronic poverty and malnutrition at an alarming pace.
“Both acute and chronic food and livelihood vulnerability have increased significantly and have become interconnected and difficult to differentiate. The Government of Zimbabwe and development partner have been looking for disaggregated grounded and credible information that would assist them not only to understand the manifestation of the current food security and livelihood challenges but also that could provide information on the factors, relationships and linkages that compound the current crisis,” Mupamhanga said.
The initiative to profile will synthesise the information in a simple, systematic, usable and easy to understand manner of the various livelihoods components. Mupamhanga said the profiles focus on infrastructure, water and sanitation, communication, livelihoods, poverty, climate, crops, livestock, markets, hazards and shocks, development indicators and priorities, food and nutrition security conditions and recommendations for the 60 rural districts of Zimbabwe.