Saturday, April 06, 2013

Scott bemoans under-nutrition among children
By Fridah Nkonde
Fri 05 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Guy Scott says Zambian children have been denied the opportunity to develop to their full potential due to the problem of under-nutrition, which has resulted in high levels of stunting which are close to 45 per cent.

During the launch of the first 1,000 most critical days programme on Wednesday, Vice-President Scott, who was represented by community development minister Dr Joseph Katema said the first 1,000 most critical days programme was an effort to reverse the adverse nutrition status of the children which had continued to be unsatisfactory for over two decades.

"Stunting has severe consequences on the development of the child as it impacts on school performance and impairs productivity. This high level of under-nutrition makes our country to have one of the highest rates of stunting beyond the World Health Organisation cut off point," he said.

"This is unacceptable because it compromises our economic and national development potential which is dependent on children growing and developing well into strong and productive adults. As government, we are concerned because we do not want our children to become trapped in a vicious circle of factors that perpetuate and accentuate the problem of stunting."

Vice-President Scott said the problem of stunting was worsened by frequent childhood infections which were irreversible, adding that it was important to note that timing was essential in order to prevent irreversible damage within the first 1,000 days window for preventing stunting.

He said the government was aware that there were disadvantaged and impoverished sections of the population who should be the first target of poverty reduction and social protection programmes.

Vice-President Scott said the first 1,000 most critical days programme required multisectoral efforts and implored the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to strengthen its crop diversification programme.

He said government would ensure that activities under the first 1,000 most critical days in line ministries and other government institutions received the required funds from the treasury so as to contribute to the attainment of the millennium development goals one, four and five which had targeted reducing poverty, child and maternal deaths.

Vice-President Scott said government envisages reducing stunting by the year 2015.

And Civil Society Organisation - Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance coordinator William Chilufya presented 10 key recommendations to improve nutrition in Zambia.

"There is need for us as a country to build the political will to tackle under nutrition; we must ensure effective high-level national coordination. We must increase spending, we must address serious gaps to ensure adequate human resource at all levels, and we must protect nutrition funding," Chilufya said.

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the cooperating partners, DFID acting head of office Malcolm Geere said Zambia had one of the highest rates of childhood under nutrition in the world with higher rates of chronic malnutrition or stunting (46.7 per cent) than in average for Africa (42 per cent).

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