High malnutrition levels in Zambia worrying

INADEQUIATE trained nutritionists has contributed to the high prevalence of malnutrition affecting over 50 percent of children under the age of five, says the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) chairman Professor Chifumbe Chintu.

Prof Chintu said Zambia only had 149 trained nutritionists to effectively manage nutritional needs of the people.

Speaking at national briefing in Lusaka yesterday Prof Chintu said however that there was need to train more nutritionists to mitigate the long term effects on the people.

He said as a result, there were a high number of children suffering from chronic malnutrition especially in the rural areas where the shortage of nutritionists was worse.

“Among children aged below 5 years, about 1,200,000have chronic malnutrition, studies conducted elsewhere have shown that if this type of malnutrition is not corrected, it affects future productivity among those affected,” he said.

Prof Chintu demanded for increased partnerships with the private sector in building capacity to malnutrition by adding numbers of trained personnel to attend to the high demands exhibited in stunting children.

And the commission has disclosed that Zambia experienced high levels of malnutrition in the northern parts. And Prof Chintu has revealed that lack of education among household heads was among determinants of high malnutrition through poor dietary diversity score among the children.

To  some extent, even the marital status at households especially in women headed families with unstable incomes contributed to the high malnutrition levels among young children.

He said the child’s gender also had the potential risk of suffering malnutrition with over 55 percent boys being among the worst affected with malnutrition compared to 45 percent girls.

The recent animal disease outbreaks affecting most livestock farmers around the country posed a huge threat to reducing further protein intake especially in rural areas.

The commission has since appealed to government to quicken its response towards eradicating animal diseases such as the African Swine fever which posed a direct impact on the rural household protein score.

“This poses more problems with threats of eroding further the little proteins available at household level because of diseases killing animals in the rural areas,” said Prof Chintu.

Currently, Zambia was experiencing an outbreak of the African Swine Fever that has affected Lusaka, Southern Province and Northwestern Province which has claimed over 4,000 pigs.  And NFNC has commended government for implementing a strategic plan which included measures to increase coverage of nutrition intervention programmes across Zambia including line ministries like health, education and community development.

“With the Ministry of agriculture, the NFNC is promoting production and consumption of diverse local nutritious foods at community level with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), DFID, Irish AID and SIDA,” he said.

The commission has also called for a review of the National Food Commission Act of 1967 to strengthen policy and legal framework to make it responsive to the nutrition needs of the country.