Kagera struggles to eliminate malnutrition

MORE efforts are needed to ensure that unnecessary deaths among children aged below five years are brought to an end. A recent survey shows that almost 41.7 per cent of children in Kagera Region are suffering from malnutrition.

The survey indicates that the rate of stunting stands at 34.7 per cent. Under weight at 13.4 per cent, wasting at 3.8 per cent, anemia among children at 59 per cent.

Vitamin A Deficiency stood at 33 per cent, anemia among pregnant women stood at 53 per cent while Low Birth Weight (LBW) stands at seven per cent.

Kagera Regional Nutrition Development Officer, Yusuf Hamis said a national survey conducted last year revealed that Kagera Region topped ten regions in Mainland Tanzania, where malnutrition stood at 41.7 per cent among children aged below five years while the national average stood at 34 per cent.

Other regions include Dodoma, Mwanza, Kigoma, Mbeya, Dar es Salaam, Geita, Tabora, Ruvuma and Lindi.

Expounding, he said about 469,943 children aged between six months to fifty nine months received Vitamin A Vaccine, an equivalent of 101.5 per cent. While 425,960 children aged one year to fifty nine months received Worms medicines, implying 102.6 per cent.

Kagera Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS), Prof. Faustin Kamuzora appealed for joint efforts in fighting malnutrition among children. We have to ensure that all children are free from malnutrition.

The region is rich with fertile soils and plenty of food. There is no reason why children should suffer from malnutrition. Efforts should be directed to ensure that no child dies due to malnutrition.

Malnutrition in childhood and pregnancy has many adverse consequences for child survival and longterm well-being. It also has far-reaching consequences for human capital, economic productivity, and national development.

Malnutrition is associated with inadequate diet, poor health and sanitation services, and insufficient care for young children.

Persistent exposure of the affected households to inadequate food consumption could worsen the already vulnerable nutrition status of children. Investing in nutrition is essential for Tanzania to progress.

It is estimated that the country will lose US$20 billion by 2025 if the nutrition situation does not improve.

In contrast, by investing in nutrition and improving the population’s nutritional status, the country could gain up to US$4.7 billion by 2025.

Given the importance of nutrition in the overall physical and cognitive development of children, there is a need to focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to prevent the negative effects of malnutrition from becoming irreversible.

This requires a multi-pronged approach to address risk factors ranging from inadequate food and illness to poor access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. Significant progress was made in the nutritional status of children under 5 years of age between 1992 and 2015.

Stunting or chronic malnutrition decreased from 50 to 34 per cent, acute malnutrition from 7 to 5 per cent and underweight from 24 to 14 per cent. Children under 6 months who were breastfed exclusively increased significantly in Tanzania, from 29 to 59 per cent between 1996 and 2015.

Anaemia among children aged 6 months to 5 years decreased from 72 per cent in 2005 to 59 per cent in 2010. The coverage of Vitamin A supplementation among children aged 6 months to 5 years rose from 46 per cent in 2005 to 72 per cent in 2014.

The proportion of households using adequately iodized salt increased from 47 to 61 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Qualified nutrition officers have been appointed in all districts and regions of Tanzania.

Tools are in place to track progress in scaling-up nutrition interventions such as quarterly scorecards, annual nutrition reviews, biannual national nutrition surveys and public expenditure reviews of the nutrition sector every three years.

Average spending on nutrition at local government level has increased from TZS 65 million to TZS 125 million between fiscal years 2011/12 and 2015/16.

In 2015, more than 2.7 million Tanzanian children under 5 years of age were estimated to be stunted and more than 600,000 were suffering from acute malnutrition, of which 100,000 were severe cases.

There are huge variations in the nutritional status of children under 5 years of age.

Ten regions account for 58 per cent of all stunted children and five regions account for half of the children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Tanzania. All three forms of under nutrition are higher among children from the poorest quintile than the richest quintile and higher among boys than girls.

Progress on various indicators has been either stagnant or has slipped. Coverage of Vitamin A supplementation among children aged 6 months to 5 years decreased from 72 to 41 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Anaemia among women aged 15–49 years reduced slightly over a decade being 48 per cent in 2004 and 45 per cent in 2015, while anaemia amongst children aged 6 months to 5 years has barely changed from 59 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2015.

The prevalence of low body mass index among girls aged 15–19 years remained unchanged between 2010 and 2015 (approximately 18 per cent). There are high rates of anaemia among women (45 per cent overall).

Fiftyseven per cent of pregnant women and 46 per cent of breastfeeding mothers are anaemic. Key high-impact interventions such as the promotion of infant and young child feeding practices and management of severe acute malnutrition are underfunded, resulting in in- adequate coverage.

MZEE Shoka tested HIV positive ten years ago. ...

Author: MEDDY MULISA in Bukoba

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