The Issue : Malnutrition
Malnutrition is a challenge to development contributing to the high burden of disease and perpetuating poverty. The burden of malnutrition is of huge concern in all its forms- under nutrition, micronutrient deficiency, overweight and obesity, as it imposes high economic and social costs on society at all income levels.
Maternal and child malnutrition remains a persistent and detrimental health problem in less developed countries. In Zambia, malnutrition, and more especially under nutrition, is a serious public health concern. Household food insecurity, micro-nutrient deficiencies and infants born with low birth weight are major nutrition problems in the country. Underlying causes of malnutrition include inadequate access to diverse foods, neglect of young children and mothers at household level, poor water and sanitation and insufficient health services.
· Malnutrition case fatality of 40% in the SADC region is indicative of Zambia's development challenge
· The high national poverty rate at 64% contributes significantly to malnutrition
Undernutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies undermine cognitive development and child survival, trapping individuals into vicious cycles of ill health and poverty continued across generations. Two in five children under five in Zambia are stunted, which indicates chronic malnutrition. Generally, severely malnourished children are more prone to dying than the well-nourished. Short stature attributed to childhood malnutrition leads to poor productivity in adulthood. According to the World Bank (2006), a 1 percent loss in adult height is related to 1.4 per cent reduced productivity. Other consequences include poor cognitive development and school performance which hinders an individual from achieving their full potential.
· 40% of children under the age of five are stunted (low height-for-age), 15% are underweight and 6% are wasted (low weight-for-height)
· 52% Child mortality rates, under-nutrition estimated to contribute to 42% of all under five deaths in Zambia
· Vitamin A deficiency stands at 53% while iron deficiency is 46% among under five children.
Pregnant and lactating women and young children less than three years are most vulnerable to malnutrition. Poor nutrition is a main driver of high maternal and child mortality rates, and aggravates the poor physical condition of women and children. Maternal mortality rates in Zambia stand at around 398 per 100,000 live births, with teenage mothers twice as likely to die during childbirth (five times more likely if under 14). The likelihood of having under nourished children from malnourished mothers is high, particularly babies born from mothers who are also HIV positive and illiterate.
The poverty burden in Zambia is felt heaviest by already marginalised groups, especially women and in particular adolescent girls. Adolescent girls are faced with a host of problems that undermine their nutrition, including but not limited to, early marriages, teenage pregnancies, illiteracy and HIV infections. Recognising the plight of these mothers puts us one step closer to addressing the issue that is malnutrition.
· 9.6% of women of reproductive age are underweight. Maternal malnutrition is an underlying factor to maternal mortality and low birth weight babies
10% of women aged 15-49 years old are underweight, while 23% are ore overweight
· 42% of girls being married by the age of 18
Zambia has recognized the importance of addressing malnutrition as a multi- sectoral response. In cognizance of the high rates of malnutrition in the country, Zambia became an early riser country to implement the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative. The government has developed a National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan (NFNSP, 2011 - 2015), whose first strategic focus area addresses the first 1,000 most critical days of life (the period from conception until a child is 2 years old).