Zambians’ under-nourishment a scandal, says UPND

It is scandalous and annoying that nearly half of Zambia’s population is undernourished while country is a leading producer of copper in the world, opposition UPND has charged.

UPND vice president Canisius Banda wondered how Zambia could be second to Haiti, the world’s poorest country and a very small island with very little to name in terms of natural resources.

Statistics released by the United Nations through the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme last week indicated that Zambia was undernourished.

Dr Banda said the report was embarrassing and humiliating for a peaceful country that had enjoyed a steady economic growth of over six per cent per annum in the last few years.

He said although the report uses data obtained from the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey and some had been dismissive of the findings, subsequent surveys by the National Food and Nutrition Commission of Zambia (NFNC) and a recent UNICEF report were consistent with the 2013 Hunger Report.

The opposition leader said after the release of the report last week, there had been official response from government and that the silence from the PF government was that they did not understand the implications of the report and that they had no solutions to the problem of undernourishment.

“It also demonstrates further the far-reaching negative implications of the removal of subsidies on maize and fuel and their effect on the quality of life of our people. A consequence we warned of but which PF in their usual arrogance consistently ignored,” he said.

Dr Banda said the UPND believed in “more food on the table” and not only more but right food as the solution to undernourishment

This means that a food subsidy will be particularly helpful to poor families as they will almost certainly afford to buy more food. The removal of subsidies on the staple food by the PF government was not only highly irresponsible but negligent of poor peoples’ needs. PF removed subsidies and then chooses to introduce a social cash transfer system that is badly targeted and cannot sustain any human being,” he said.

The opposition leader further said that subsidies should actually be preceded or accompanied by educational and promotional efforts such as reducing the size of cabinet and cutting down on government bureaucracy could fund feeding programs for thousands of children and pregnant mothers.

He said a lot of people especially in rural areas of Zambia were engaged in subsistence farming and in the long term, implementing sound agriculture policy would inevitably increase household income and food security.

Dr Banda said his party would prioritize improving and diversifying agriculture in Zambia to increase the quality and quantity of food available at household level.

He said the findings and recommendation of the 2013 UN Hunger Report would be discussed by governments, civil society and private sector representatives at the 7-11 October meeting of the Committee on Food Security on World Food Security, at FAO headquarters in Rome.

He has since implored government to engage local experts and adequately prepare for this discussion and hoped that the PF government’s reaction to the humble request of reducing undernourishment in Zambia would receive the urgency it deserved and not with the usual childish diatribes.