More than 25 percent of under-fives were treated for severe wasting in Zimbabwe from January to August this year, a development which has been worsened by Covid-19 especially in food insecure districts.
Wasting and other forms of acute malnutrition are the result of maternal malnutrition, low birth weight, poor feeding and care practices, and infection exacerbated by food insecurity, limited access to safe drinking water, and poverty.
Severely wasted children are too thin for their height and are the result of recent rapid weight loss or the failure to gain weight, and on average they are 11 times more likely to die than their healthy counterparts.
Despite recording normal cereal production during the past farming season, a majority of under-fives still do not have access to nutrition in Zimbabwe, according to a Unicef report.
“From January to August 2021, a monthly average of 330,339 children aged 6-59 months (168,473 girls and 161,886 boys), constituting 79% of the target, were screened for acute malnutrition in the selected districts. Of the 22,176 children targeted for treatment of severe wasting in 2021, 5,690 children (3,189 girls and 2,501 boys), constituting 25% of the target, were admitted to community and facility-based programmes for the treatment of severe wasting from January to July 2021,” says Unicef.
The number of children who suffer from wasting can increase dramatically as a result of conflicts, epidemics and food insecurity, including that caused by climate change induced droughts and flooding. The report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact access to nutrition services.
“However, the household cereal security in the country which has improved following improved harvests and the increased household access to maize from own production and other foods from the local markets has contributed to the decline in children being admitted with acute malnutrition in 2021 compared to other years.”
Bongiwe Madondo a nutritionist highlighted that it is important for family members to ensure that their children especially under-fives have access to healthy meals.
She said malnutrition in this age group affects mental and physical development, increasing risk of succumbing to a number of diseases.
“Our malnutrition rate has always been high especially in rural districts and we know that Covid-19 worsened the situation as many families lost their sources of income. We therefore urge families to invest in nutritious meals for their children so that their immune system is boosted and they do not easily fall sick even in the future,” said Madondo.
Madondo encouraged members of the public to buy wholesome foods for their families and avoid giving their babies junk food as this affects their development.
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