Nutritionists Concerned Over MICS Results On Minimum Acceptable Diet

NUTRITION advocates on Friday expressed reservations over what they feel could be a misrepresentation of reality on the Minimum Acceptable Diet (MAD) results produced in the latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS).

By Kuda Pembere

A nutritionally acceptable MAD takes into account that children should consume at least four of the seven food groups. Minimum Acceptable diet defined by WHO as is the proportion of children 6–23 months of age who receive a minimum acceptable diet (both minimum dietary diversity and the minimum meal frequency) during the previous 24 hours.

This emerged in separate interviews on the sidelines of a nutrition technical working group meeting organized by the Health and Child Care Ministry discussing Zimbabwe’s Investment in Nutrition.

Speaking with Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (ZCSOSUNA) Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Mr Joel Chipfuvamiti said the MICS results on this issue could have missed other food groups.

“We are doing okay but the challenge is that people couldn’t really tell from the results if it was putting into account all the food groups consumed. So that’s the challenge. Otherwise from the MICS results we are doing quite well as a country.

“There is still room for improvement. There are some areas where we need to work on especially in Manicaland where the stunting rates are still high. A lot still needs to be done,” he said.

Despite minimum funding from Government, Mr Chipfuvamiti also commended the Health Ministry and its partners in having activities targeted towards fighting malnutrition.

“Government programs are on point but we just need more channeling of resources to those existing. Like now there is food distribution for vulnerable groups.

“If those initiatives are supported we should be able to sail through and we are really hoping that the donor network will continue to partner government as they have obviously done. We have had donor support in the past so we hope this will continue,” he said.

Health Ministry Nutrition Advocacy and Communication Consultant Mr Dexter Chagwena concurred with Mr Chipfuvamiti opining that the MICS figure might have been inflated.

“If you look at the Minimum Acceptable Diet which is one of the complementary feeding indicators we use to measure the quality of diets, for children, you will find that we are not doing well. Currently the MICS is talking about 11 percent which is a bit high to what we are necessarily observing in the communities,” he said explaining that it could, “Maybe because of methodology issues and the way we have calculated minimum acceptable diet in this survey which is a bit different from other years mainly on the indicator of minimum dietary diversity.”

He however gave a benefit of doubt to the MICS survey result attributing, “strong social behaviour change communication, we have had increased knowledge, self-efficacy amongst mothers, caregivers so that they are now improving.” So it’s something that we really need to look into and continue to analyse so that we really observe what’s really happening and get the actual feel of it.”

Mr Chagwena said the reduction in exclusive breast feeding was worrying.

“When we look at the MICS results we are saying that for now have preliminary results that just came in, if you look at the main nutrition indicators, we are seeing a drop between 2014 and 2019 for instance stunting has gone down, wasting still remains low and when we look at underweight it still remains within manageable rates.

“So I think it shows that as a country we are going forward. But when it comes to the drop in exclusive breast feeding, it has gone down to about 42 percent it means we really need to do something regarding breastfeeding. We need to support our women. We need to put strategies that support working women, rural women. We need to talk about gender and nutrition. We need to engage men to support pregnant women and lactating women as well,” he said.

On the issue of Manicaland, it was discussed that several issues contributed to the highest stunting prevalence of 30, 6 percent in the country. Participants said religious, cultural, genetic, economic among other factors could have contributed to that prevalence rate.

It was also recommended that Zimbabwe backs its commitments with more financial resources. Also said during the meeting that CSOs and researchers account to the communities they serve through involving them in planning as well as giving them feedback.

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