By Michael Gwarisa
Briefing delegates at the National Nutrition Seminar in Harare, USAD Chief, Office of Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience, Jason Taylor said Zimbabwe has a history of only addressing short term hunger issues but has challenges of providing long term food and nutrition solutions hence the recurring droughts and food shortages.
“Rural Zimbabwe is increasingly vulnerable to recurrent s crisis. Just two years ago, the government of Zimbabwe in partnership with the international community, mounted a historic drought response that reached over four million people. It was a huge and largely successful effort that prevented the loss of many lives and livelihoods.
“After a brief respite during which we saw good rains and a good harvest, needs are set to rise again. The current assessment by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee predicts that up to 2.4 million Zimbabweans will require food security assistance in the lean season ahead, this figure represents 28 percent of the rural population,” said Taylor.
He added that even though the country was witnessing low levels of wasting in children, there was still some work to do in terms of ensuring children are exposed to nutritious diets at community level.
“This climatic shock is stacked upon chronic vulnerability factors that negatively impacts child health nutrition. The 2018 National Nutrition survey found that only 4 percent of children under two years of age have minimally acceptable diet, only 16 percent meet the minimum standard for dietary diversity, only 19 percent met the threshold.
“Poor child feeding practices impede our efforts to fight chronic malnutrition. As has already been mentioned national stunting levels are over 26 percent with some districts recording over 35 percent. There is however some good news here, wasting levels in Zimbabwe is still within a reasonable range, however we can only agree that a single hungry child is not acceptable.”
The USAID has put in US$120 million towards the Community Care group program to ensure households are food secure and empowered to generate meaningful livelihoods through community income generating projects.
Meanwhile, director family health in the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC), Dr Benard Madzima applauded the Enhancing Nutrition, Stepping up Resilience and Enterprise (ENSURE) which is being spearheaded by World Vision Zimbabwe in partnership with CARE, SNV and Safire and funded by USAID’s for addressing the nutrition concerns the country is facing at rural level.
In a speech read on his behalf by Dr Mathew Matsungo, he said malnutrition, wasting among a host of other food deficiency conditions was high in rural communities but the situation could change if communities work together.
“The behaviour change approach was rolled out through the Care Group model and we made sure that. So among other things the model among other things advocates for the improvement of health seeking behaviours in communities with pregnant and lactating women and also children under the age two.
“Since 2014, the Care group model has been implemented as vehicle for behaviour change. So behaviour change is the centre of the care group approach so it’s being implemented in these communities,” he said.
A total of 5260 care groups have been established by Enhancing Nutrition, Stepping up Resilience and Enterprise (ENSURE). ENSURE and its sister program AMALINDA which is active in Matabeleland has seen an increase in male participation in nutrition activities.
The five-year ENSURE program which is being spearheaded by World Vision Zimbabwe in partnership with CARE, SNV and Safire and funded by USAID’s food peace program is designed to improve the nutrition of women of reproductive age and children under the age of five, increase and improve agricultural production and marketing, and increase communities’ resilience and response to disasters and shocks.
The program targets to have positively impacted over 215,000 vulnerable Zimbabweans by end of 2018 will be positively impacted through ENSURE!
Meanwhile, the ENSURE program trains and coaches hundreds of communities to increase their absorptive and adaptive capacities in the face of natural and other disasters that cause setbacks in a community’s food security.