Feature: Poverty spikes child malnutrition

via Feature: Poverty spikes child malnutrition – New Zimbabwe 25/10/2015

AT the age of 12, Tendai Munhamo, a grade 7 pupil at a primary school in Chiwundura, on the outskirts of Gweru, has the height of an eight year old girl.

It is not only her height that makes her body look sluggish. Her skin looks dry and flaky, eyes pale and thinning hair.

Though Tendai has not been diagnosed with any serious medical ailment, she is a victim of chronic malnutrition.

Children who suffer from chronic malnutrition fail to grow normally both physically and mentally, the major symptom being stunted growth.

Though chronic malnutrition is caused by a myriad of causes, in Tendai’s case her diminutive body has to do with an unbalanced diet and nutrition e she was exposed to since her birth.

Tendai, like numerous other children in Zimbabwe, face serious growth challenges as poverty continue to bite in every corner of the country.

Problems associated with chronic malnutrition threaten generations to come as these children will become parents and pass it to their offspring.

The result is an ongoing cycle of people with lower intelligent quotients (IQs), exposed to several illnesses and in turn failing to contribute to the country’s economic well-being.

“We have been struggling to put food on the table since Tendai was born,” said Tendai’s mother, Nomsa, with a hopeless tone.

Nomsa also looks impoverished, depressed and appears to have lost a lot of weight. As a single parent, she said she was struggling to fend for her children and herself.

Survive on begging

“I have two other children and we mainly survive through door-to-door begging, at times we do menial jobs at people’s homes and get a bucket of maize grain,” Nomsa told NewZimbabwe.com.

Her two other kids, aged six and three respectively, have appearances which show that their health is also not up to scratch. With thin arms and disproportionate bodies, Takudzwa and Ropafadzo’s normal growth is heavily compromised.

According to the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 27% of children in Zimbabwe are stunted, 11, 2% underweight, 3, 3% wasted and 3,6% overweight.

“The percentage of stunting initially increases with a child’s age, with prevalence highest between 18 and 35 months, and declines thereafter.

“The prevalence of underweight is highest among children age 18 to 23 months, while children aged 12 to 17 months are likely to be wasted. Children under six months are likely to be overweight,” reads the report.

Food fortification

According to Health and Child Care minister, David Parirenyatwa chronic malnutrition has become a major health problem such that government has plans to introduce food fortification on staple foods.

Food fortification is the practice of adding essential vitamins and minerals to staple foods to increase their nutritional value.

“We have such a policy (food fortification) as part of our public health strategy, it only needs implementation,” Parirenyatwa said recently at a press briefing to launch the programme on immunisation of rubella measles.

Parirenyatwa said chronic malnutrition was above 27 percent, adding that it needed to be curbed as part government’s health strategy.

“We will add vitamins, iron, folic acid and iodine to staple foods as mealie meal among other food staffs.”

The minister said, in future, the government would make it mandatory that imported food stuffs are fortified.

According to latest statistics of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.

The figure translates to about one in nine people on earth, the vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 13.5 percent of the population is undernourished and Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger where one person in four people is undernourished.

With nearly half (45%) of deaths in children due to poor nutrition each year, there is need there is need for government and all stakeholders to come up with vibrant strategies, in particular on food security to curb chronic malnutrition.


  • comment-avatar
    IAN SMITH 7 years ago

    Just visit Matabeleland to see what hell looks like.

  • comment-avatar
    Tiger Shona 7 years ago

    Is there not one real man in Zanu PF that can stand up and say: Guys, we have really gone too far with all these stupid things we did. Let’s be brave enough to admit that we messed up the country.

    We all know what works! !

    Does Zanu not care about the nation in distress??
    I guess it is just too nice for some people to sit with all that ill-gotten gains and ignore the tragedy around them.