By Byron Mutingwende
Stakeholders have reiterated the call to end malnutrition in all its forms in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. This emerged at the Zimbabwe Nutrition Association (ZimNA) inaugural conference held at Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare.
The conference was a platform for sharing ideas and experiences as a way of contributing to the policy and nutrition programme discourse in line with the ZimNA motto of “Evidence based nutrition practice” through collaborative efforts.
“The theme of our inaugural conference is “A decade of nutrition and a call for action for Zimbabwe”. It is imperative therefore, that this conference should provide some guidance and evidence on what works guided by global and local evidence and how we can scale up activities that have shown a greater impact in solving nutrition challenges and that help the country meet or surpass global targets as set under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Global Targets for 2025 which we have domesticated,” said Arthur Pagiwa, the president of ZimNA.
Tafara Ndumiyana, the Head of Health and Nutrition of World Food Programme (WFP) Zimbabwe said her organisation recognises nutrition challenges facing Zimbabwe, especially under-nutrition.
“In realisation of the need to meet global targets for the reduction of malnutrition such as the WHA 2025 targets, WFP as of April 2017 has embarked on a renewed vision in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals-SDGs to assist and contribute towards addressing malnutrition problems in Zimbabwe.
“The global SDG target 2.2 is on “Ending all forms of malnutrition” and WFP’s strategic outcome from this is “Child stunting rates are in line with achievement of national (Zimbabwe’s) and global targets by 2025”. The vision from WFP is to see the eradication of stunting in the country, which is a key challenge that l believe will be a center of the deliberations in this 2-day conference and expo. Stunting in the country is at the high of 27% signifying a ratio of 1 in 3 children being stunted in the country,” Ndumiyana said.
Ndumiyana said the WFP seeks to promote evidence for nutrition advocacy, policy and programme decision-making and supports the government on nutrition programming at national and sub-national levels. It also advocates for a multi-stakeholder approach on dealing with the stunting problem in the country.
Zephenia Gomora, the Nutrition Specialist of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Zimbabwe alluded to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) 2015 that confirmed that the stunting rate in Zimbabwe remains high (around 27%) with stunting rates higher in rural areas at (29%), compared to (22%) in urban areas.
He highlighted the gender disparities with boys having a higher stunting prevalence of 30% compared to girls at 24%. Underweight and wasting was 8% and 3% respectively.
“It is against this background that UNICEF is currently finalizing its Nutrition strategy 2017-2020 which shapes UNICEF’s approach to contribute to equitable access to and use of high-impact, cost-effective and quality nutrition interventions and practices. These interventions focus on Nutrition surveillance, stunting reduction (through the scaling up of the Multi-sectoral Community Based Model – MCBM), prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies, promotion, protection and support of optimal Infant and Young Child Feeding practices, management of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), and will primarily target children under five years, adolescents and pregnant and lactating women. Although focused on UNICEF’s specific nutrition programme outputs, linkages with strategic sectors (Health, WASH, Education and Child Protection) and crosscutting issues like HIV, Gender and equity are mainstreamed in the strategy,” Gomora said.
He added that to ensure the continuum between Nutrition specific and Nutrition sensitive interventions, UNICEF would continue to spearhead the geographic and programmatic convergence with the other UN agencies (FAO, WFP, WHO, Un Women, IOM) and the Donors building through the REACH and the SUN initiatives.
“Priority will be given to capacity building of, and partnerships with national and local NGOs and CBOs to roll-out community-based nutrition interventions and deliver results at grassroots levels. ZIMNA is one such key stakeholder that UNICEF will continue to support.”
Siboniso Chigova, the Food Safety and Nutrition Standards Officer of the Food and Nutrition Council (FNC) said the government is committed to enhancing and strengthening national capacity to food and nutrition security, primarily through supporting and reinforcing local community capacity and responsibility.
“This is anchored on applied context specific research and learning and multi-sectoral professional training in food and nutrition security. The FNC is mandated to promote a cohesive national response for food and nutrition security through a coordinated multi-sectoral action. By improving nutrition, human capital can be built and fuel economic growth for generations to come. However, nutrition full impact can only be unleashed when various sectors play their roles,” Chigova said.
The FNC has an overarching role of ensuring that the GOZ is upraised of any new evidence around food and nutrition. FNC is currently working towards raising visibility of nutrition as well as maintaining the political commitment towards nutrition for all.
There is a framework that shows the government’s commitment towards ending food insecurity and malnutrition. This includes the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP).
The Zimbabwe Constitution in Section 15 states that, “the state must: encourage people to grow and store adequate food; secure the establishment of adequate food reserves, and encourage and promote adequate and proper nutrition through mass education and other appropriate means”. Section 19 (2) states that: “The State must adopt reasonable policies and measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to ensure that children – (b) have shelter and basic nutrition, health care and social services” while Section 77 (b) states that, “every person has the right to sufficient food, and the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.”
As participants to the Twenty-Third Assembly of the African Union in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2014, Zimbabwe together with other African states committed to ending child stunting and bring stunting prevalence down to 10 percent and committed to position this goal as a high level objective in national development plans and strategies. The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CCADP) – includes integration of nutrition in national agriculture investment plans (NAIPs).
The SADC Food and Nutrition Strategy 2015 – 2025 aims to significantly reduce food and nutrition insecurity in the Region by 2025 through promoting availability of food through improved production, productivity and competitiveness; improving access to adequate and appropriate food in terms of quality and quantity; and improving the utilisation of nutritious, healthy, diverse and safe food for consumption under adequate biological and social environment with proper health care.