By Beaven Dhliwayo.
Harare, Zimbabwe. (News of The South) – At least 27 percent Zimbabwean children are suffering from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, according to latest statistics from the Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Scaling Up in Nutrition Alliance (ZCSOSUNA).
The term malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of nutrients and covers two broad groups.
This includes under nutrition’ which cause stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals) and secondly over nutrition which results in overweight or obese.
Insufficient access to food, low agricultural production, poverty, inadequate maternal and childcare practices, unhealthy environment and inadequate health services among others are the root causes of malnutrition.
The alliance said statistics they provided were in line with statistics from Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 2015 (ZDHS) and as of 2017 stunting was still at 27 percent.
In a presentation in Harare recently dubbed “Malnutrition situation in Zimbabwe,” ZCSOSUNA Advocacy and Communications Advisor, Kudzai Chavhunduka said stunted growth was still at 27 percent.
“About 27 percent children in Zimbabwe suffer stunted growth, with nine percent severely stunted owing to poor nutrition,” she said.
Chavhunduka said at a national level 13 percent of children aged 6 to 23 months consumed a minimum dietary diversity, lower than 18 percent reported in 2015.
She said three percent of the affected children have low weight for their height with another one percent severely affected by this disorder.
Minimum Dietary Diversity (MDD) is when a child consumes food from four or more of the food groups.
She also highlighted that the highest records of stunting were recorded in Manicaland.
Head of Programmes at Rural Enterprise Trust of Zimbabwe (RETZ), Cuthbert Mukora weighed in saying stunted growth in children affects mental development which in turn affects a child’s performance in school.
“A child who is under-nourished is at risk of suffering from cognitive and physical impairment, which have impact on quality of life as a child and an adult within the society. Stunted children are more likely to repeat grades in school or even drop out.
“Between 7 and 16 percent of repetitions in school are associated with stunting. Repetitions are costly both to the family of the student and to the education system, as both need to invest resources for an additional year of schooling,” he said.
Mukora also said malnutrition causes a shorter stature which in women puts them at risk of complications during childbirth because of a smaller pelvis, adding that stunted growth can be passed on to next generations.
ZCSOSUNA national coordinator, Kudakwashe Zombe reiterated saying the Ministry of Health and Child Care should adopt nutrition as a standalone programme or sub programme since the fight against malnutrition in all its forms is a priority under this sector.
“ZCSOSUNA will be practicing “nutrition advocacy” which involves influencing politicians to take action that strengthens and improves nutrition in the country either through changes to policies and the scope of interventions,” he said.
In Zimbabwe total budgetary allocation to health and child care is far less than 15 percent of the national budget as recommended by the Abuja declaration to which the country is a signatory.
A slight increase by 1 percentage point from 6.9 percent in 2017 to 7.9 percent in 2018 was noted.
A total of $454 014 000 was appropriated to the sector in 2018, up from a revised estimate of $282 549 000 in 2017.
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