THERE is need to address the issue of micro-nutrients deficiencies in children at a very young age in order to arrest the malnutrition and stunting problem currently haunting Zimbabwe, a nutritionist has said.
By Michael Gwarisa
According to the 2020 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) survey, stunting remains high at 29.4% for the children under the age of five. The national stunting prevalence was reported to be 29.4% among children6-59 months. The Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate was 3.7% and below the WHO threshold for emergency. Children identified as underweight was 9.45 and comparable with other assessments.
In an interview with HealthTimes on the sidelines of the Kick-Out Stunting Presentations day in Harare, Kuwadzana recently, Yemurai Mukondo, a Nutritionist with YAPWE Nutrition and Wellness Foundation said the Kick Out stunting was the right platform through which the message of nutrition could travel faster and effectively in communities.
Yemurai Mukondo from YAPWE
As YAPWE, we are taking part in the Kick-Out Stunting campaign because it is a program that is looking at increasing nutrition awareness and trying to reduce the stunting levels in our society. If we empower these youth advocates in nutrition and advocacy as well as increase their knowledge on the different types of malnutrition and how we can reduce the levels of stunting, then i am sure they can be able to take the message out there to their peers, to their communities and to almost everyone else that we can’t reach.
“In doing so, we will be able to reduce the levels of malnutrition even in the coming generations because they are the future parents. At least if we are able to catch them at this stage, then it means in the coming years they can be able to address the stunting issues,” said Yemurai.
She added that Micro-nutrients deficiencies have a huge bearing on stunting and there have been various things that have been done by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to try and address the issues around micro-nutrients deficiencies.
“Some of the initiatives government has done to address these issues include Vitamin A supplementation for children under the age of five,iron supplementation for pregnant and lactating women. It also includes fortification in different ways.
“With the Kick-Out Stunting campaign, if we are able to raise awareness of these things that they are there and they are available, we stand a chance to address the micro-nutrients induced malnutrition cases. You know sometimes we have parents who not even know that they should take their children to get Vitamin A supplementation every six moths. By empowering young people as advocates, they will help by even following up on such cases and try to educate their communities.”
She also said there was need to raise awareness and make noise in the communities about food fortification as many people were unaware of the initiative which has capacity to change nutrition outcomes for the better.
Cuthbert Mukora the Rural Entreprise Trust of Zimbabwe (RETZ) programmes manager said they were rolling out the youth led campaign “Kick out stunting Campaign” a campaign that is aimed at raising nutrition awareness and promoting physical activity among youths.
“The kick out stunting campaign is a youth led initiative which is determined to raise nutrition awareness amongst youths by youths. Its not a new initiative but it has already started last year through the ZCSOSUNA and we are now broadening the participation of adolescents by allowing them to lead the initiative and sensitise other children in their schools and local communities.
“The campaign takes consideration of the fact that children are the major victims of malnutrition and therefore we are now bringing the voice of the victim to influence actions to invest in nutrition to end stunting. The national average stunting rate of over 29% in Zimbabwe is worrisome as it is above the global threshold of 20%. Therefore, amplifying the voices of the major victims is key to influence policy review and encourage increased investment in nutrition at national level,” said Mukora.
He added that the campaign was just beginning and was here to stay until the voices of children is heard by our policy makers and implementers.
“As the Rural Enterprise Trust of Zimbabwe (RETZ), we are just facilitating and ensuring that the voices of adolescent boys and girls becomes an incredibly powerful force to highlight the need for nutrition consciousness amongst our policy makers and multi-sector players so as to encourage investment in scaling up nutrition.
“We are initially targeting adolescent boys and girls in both ghetto schools and A-Class schools hoping that they will sensitise their peers and pass the knowledge to their parents at home. We believe that adolescents understand young people’s needs better than anyone else and getting them involved in decision-making processes is vital. In other words, their active participation in nutrition campaigns is aimed at drawing attention of key decision makers and policy makers in Zimbabwe so to date we have created an influential network of over 50 youth advocates for nutrition who are highly inspired and enthusiastic to take up the scaling up nutrition challenge.”
Through the campaign, adolescents have managed to effectively communicate their opinions on nutrition through dialogue, debates, poems and song to policy makers, nutrition stakeholders, journalists and peers. The youth advocates recenlty participated in national high-level platforms such as the Zimbabwe National Budget Public Hearings conducted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe, and the Multi-sectoral Food and Nutrition Strategy for 2021-2025 which was convened by the Food and Nutrition Council in Zimbabwe.
“In these platforms, our Youth Advocates have interfaced with various stakeholders such as government officials and parliamentarians, civil society and the private sector and aired their opinions. We are being supported by the SUN Movement.”
Meanwhile, Talent Sibanda, a Nutrition Youth Advocate and a student at Corpas Christ College said, “Being a nutrition champion has really helped me a lot in terms of understanding nutrition issues. It has really helped me a lot in terms of nutrition and diets. I have been helping people in my community with nutritional lessons especially the youths . I have also learnt that the mother is the backbone of any nutriti0nal requirement, without proper breastfeeding, a child can be a victim of stunting”