Malawi’s malnutrition levels worry EU, Oxfam
THE European Union (EU) has described the levels of malnutrition in the country as unacceptable.
The 2015/16 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS) found that 37 percent of Malawian children are stunted and only eight percent of children aged between six and 23 months meet the average minimum standards for recommended infant feeding practices.
EU Delegation Team Leader for Sustainable Agriculture, Mehdi Mahjoub, said the figure means almost 40 percent of the future adult population cannot achieve their full potential.
“The brains of these stunted children are already damaged and this is irreversible,” Mahjoub said.
He said this in Salima on Wednesday when Oxfam launched a three-year EU-funded project that seeks to enhance the capacity of civil society organisations, district level staff and communities in scaling up nutrition in Malawi.
The Catholic Health Commission will implement the project in four districts in the Central Region. Mahjoub called for coordinated efforts to deal with the threat, which, he said, could negatively impact on Malawi’s social and economic development.
“The attainment of good nutritional status, especially among children and women of reproductive age, is not only an essential human need; it is also a driver of sustainable development. “Under-nutrition cripples global and national economic growth and development, and future prosperity and security are intimately linked with our ability to respond adequately to this urgent challenge,” Mahjoub said.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Aggrey Masi, said the government is equally concerned that infant mortality rate is at 44 deaths per 1,000 babies, a development largely attributed to malnutrition.
“The government understands that good nutrition for pregnant mothers and children will help in reducing these deaths. Good nutrition is good for our development,” Masi said.
Oxfam Deputy Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa, said the project will prioritise women and children as active participants and predominant beneficiaries since findings show that nutritional issues affect women and children more than men in Malawi.
“This project will raise awareness on key messages in relation to mothers’ nutritional health, community health and nutrition, especially in the first 1,000 days of a child [‘s life],” Mihowa said.
The €1.5 million [approximately K1.2 billion] project, which is expected to be implemented in Lilongwe, Salima, Nkhotakota and Dowa districts, is aligned to the global initiative of scaling-up nutrition which Malawi adopted in 2011.
It targets 16,000 under-five children and 10,000 lactating and pregnant mothers translating to a population of 143,000 people from the four districts.
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