Hunger stalks Lusaka kids

University Teaching Hospital (UTH) is struggling with high levels of malnutrition which have added to the overcrowding and disease susceptibility for children around the compounds in Lusaka, says managing director Lackson Kasonka.

Parents are failing to feed their children adequately resulting in severe malnutrition due to lack of buying power.

Dr Kasonka said undernourishment has contributed to the high levels of disease among children and the situation was of great concern.

“UTH has always struggled to treat malnutrition because it affects children’s health and they become more susceptible to diseases because we have to treat the diseases and the conditions which are caused thereafter,” he said.

Dr Kasonka explained that the hospital was forced to deal with the effects of the rampant undernourishment and malnutrition which resulted in increased infections among children especially from the compounds.

UTH paediatric wing houses about seven different in-patient wards including Ward AO7 designated for the treatment of severe malnutrition.

And the Breastfeeding Association of Zambia International Baby Food Action Network  (BAZIBFAN) national coordinator Grace Mushibwe has attributed the high malnutrition levels in the country due to lack of access to proper food.

Ms Mushibwe said unsafe drinking water and limited buying power added to the long list of contributing factors of the undernourishment experienced around the country including in the urban areas of Lusaka.

“The economy is growing but the impact at household levels is not being translated in the quality of life that supports such standards as access to proper foods and knowledge about nutrition is not there,” she said.

She explained that while there were multiple causes of malnutrition in the country, the worst situations were in Luapula and North Western Provinces which had highest rate of the malnutrition among children while the least cases of malnutrition were recorded in Southern and Copperbelt Provinces.

Zambia was one of the chronically malnourished countries with nearly one in every two children under five (46 per cent) were also stunted.

Ms Mushibwe said government should ensure that every growing child was well-nourished and that the first critical 1,000 days “window of opportunity,” from conception, good nutrition should contribute to a healthy development.

Zambia this year expects poor agricultural yields after last year’s armyworms infestations which destroyed tonnes of crop, worsened by poor input distribution and inadequate rains resulting in crop failure which will result in increased malnutrition among women and children, the most affected.