Friday, February 17, 2012

45% of Zambia's children chronically malnourished

COMMENT - It is time for the PF to start collecting $1 to $2 billion a year from the mining sector that the government is owed TODAY in unpaid taxes, and start creating jobs through infrastructure, especially small scale irrigation to bring more land under cultivation and end the annual floods. No child in Zambia should go hunger at all. The country is too rich, but the stealing of the nation's resources by transnational corporations and banks needs to end immediately.

45% of Zambia's children chronically malnourished
By Mwila Chansa-Ntambi in Kitwe
Fri 17 Feb. 2012, 12:01 CAT

A SAVE the Children report has cited Zambia as one of the ten countries with the slowest annual reduction of stunting between 1990 and 2010. And a new global research by Save the Children says rising food prices and malnutrition are putting future global progress on child mortality at risk.

According to a press release by Save the Children Zambia director Marc Nosbach, 45 per cent of children in Zambia were chronically malnourished and that there has been no significant improvement in reducing the rate in the last few years.

"In recent years, the world has made dramatic progress in reducing child deaths down from 12 to 7.6 million but this momentum will stall if we fail to tackle malnutrition," Nosbach stated.

He observed that malnutrition could damage children permanently, impairing their brains and bodies but that with focused action, 'we can put in place solutions which will end this scandal'.

"Although malnutrition is the underlying cause of a third of child deaths, it has not received the same high-profile campaigning and investment as other causes of child mortality like HIV/AIDS or malaria. This has meant that while the child mortality rate from malaria has been cut by a third since 2000, child malnutrition rates in Africa have decreased by less than 0.3 percent," Nosbach noted.

He added that malnutrition's costs both in human and economic terms were huge.
He added that a chronically malnourished child could have an I.Q of up to 15 times less than a properly nourished child.

He stated that the cost of child malnutrition to the global economy in 2010 alone was nearly US$121 billion.

Nosbach proposed a package of basic measures including fortifying basic foods with essential minerals or vitamins, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for children up to six months of age and better investment in cash transfers with payments targeted at the poorest families.

He stated that the above measures could turn the tide on malnutrition and thereby reduce the vulnerability of families to food price spikes.

Nosbach stated that Save the Children was calling on all world leaders to make the malnutrition crisis visible by setting global and national targets to reduce stunting, increase funding for direct nutrition interventions such as breastfeeding and fortification and invest in effective social protection policies that reach vulnerable families.

He added that there was need for the G20 meetings to galvanise political leadership on hunger and build a plan of concrete action to tackle malnutrition.

"In Zambia we need to show the same spirit in the fight against malnutrition, as the Chipolopolo showed us during the Africa Cup of Nations," stated Nosbach.

And a new global survey by Save the Children has indicated that nearly half of families are forced to cut back on food and children are made to work to help feed their family, following years of rocketing food prices.

Save the Children warns that if no concerted action is taken, half a billion children globally would be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years, their lives blighted by malnutrition.

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