Gaps in nutrition progress


By Watipaso Mzungu

At the International Conference on Nutrition held in Rome in 1992, experts cited nutritional wellbeing of people as a precondition for the development of societies and a key objective of human development.

The experts stated that a well-nourished and healthy workforce is a pre-condition for sustainable development.


“Nutrition plays a critical role in human resource development since deficiencies in essential nutrients lead to malnutrition, which affects an individual’s mental and physical state, resulting in poor health and poor work performance,” they said.

The 2018–2022 Malawi National Multi-Sector Nutrition Policy recognises adequate nutrition as a prerequisite for human growth and development.

The policy says proper nourishment plays an important role in one’s physical and intellectual development and, consequently, work productivity.


It further states that nutrition is fundamental for Malawi’s socio-economic growth and development and that government has thus placed it high on the national development agenda.

“The National Multi-Sector Nutrition Policy 2018–22 serves to redirect the national focus on nutrition programming and to realign the national nutrition priorities with the national development agenda,” the policy reads.

Malawi has steadily demonstrated its commitment to ending all forms of malnutrition. Recently, the country participated in Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit, which took place in Tokyo from December 7 to 8.

N4G is a global pledging moment to drive greater action towards ending malnutrition and ensuring everyone, everywhere can reach their full potential.

The summit presents the potential to transform the way the world tackles the global challenge of malnutrition; as such, it focused on the critical roles of food, health and social protection systems in delivering good nutrition for all.

At a stakeholders’ meeting held at Mponela in Dowa ahead of the summit, Civil Society Organisation Nutrition Alliance (CSONA) National Coordinator, Bessie Ndovie, said there was a strong link between nutrition and human resource development.

She indicated that, for national social and economic development programmes to be successful and sustainable, the majority of the population should be able to participate in the process.

“And that calls for the majority of the population to be in good health and have good nutritional status,” Ndovie said.

She, however, lamented that the government had not demonstrated seriousness in improving the nutrition status of its people, citing the reduction in budgetary allocations towards the sector over the years.

Ndovie singled out the 2021- 22 national budget, which has an allocation to nutrition reduced from 3.7 percent in 2020-21 to 2.9 percent.

She warned that the reduction in funding had serious implications on people’s health.

United States Agency for International Development (USAid) shares Ndovie’s fears that Malawi, as a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals, risks losing its target on ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

USAid states that, during the past 10 years, the prevalence of chronic malnutrition, or stunting, has only decreased by one percentage point per year.

The agency estimates that if Malawi does not make additional investment or efforts resulting in improved nutrition by 2030, the number of infant and child deaths will be more than a quarter million due to stunting alone.

It adds that if there is no improvement in nutrition, economic productivity losses for the country will be more than K3.7 trillion in lost productivity by 2030.

“More aggressive efforts are needed to increase accountability, investment, capacity and service delivery for nutrition,” USAid says.

The agency estimates that more than 40 percent of under-five children are chronically malnourished and that this has far-reaching consequences on human capital, economic productivity and overall national development.

During a interface meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Nutrition and HIV and Aids, Ndovie appealed to government departments, agencies and institutions to stick to what has been allocated for nutrition to fully utilise the little resources available.

She also asked members of Parliament to be advocates of nutrition and lobby for more money towards the sector.

Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Nutrition and HIV and Aids, Deus Gumba Banda, pledged that the committee would continue to lobby for more support towards the sector.

At the N4G summit, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda made fresh commitments to the effect that government would amplify its consideration of nutrition matters.

“The Malawi Government will create a budget line and lobby for allocation of at least five percent of the district towards nutrition, allocate 10 percent of the five percent district nutrition budget to nutrition information system, develop nutrition local resource mobilisation strategy by 2023 and strengthen public, private partnership for nutrition investments,” Kandodo Chiponda said.

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