Three out of ten children under five years are stunted-data

DAR ES SALAAM: MINISTER for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu has highlighted worrying statistics indicating that approximately three out of ten children under the age of five in Tanzania are stunted due to poor nutrition.

She made these remarks in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, during the launch of the Premix Blending Plant by SANKU – Project Healthy Children (PHC) Tanzania, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Mr Kassim Majaliwa.

“Fifty-nine out of 100 children under five years have anaemia, and 30 out of 100 children lack Vitamin A. Additionally, 20 per cent of women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia,” she said.

Minister Ummy elaborated on the severe effects of poor nutrition, stating that three out of 100 children are born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, making Tanzania the third-highest country for these conditions in Africa after Algeria and Ethiopia.

Furthermore, she highlighted the impact of nutrition on reducing child mortality rates. The mortality rate for children under five years old has decreased from 147 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1999 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022.

Similarly, neonatal mortality has reduced from 40 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1999 to 24 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022.

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“These are just some of the statistics related to the deficiency of essential nutrients in our food, if the importance of nutrition is recognised by our community, we all know its impact on childbirth, the physical and mental growth of children, education development, and the economy as a whole,” said Minister Ummy.

She emphasized the significance of establishing the Premix Blending Plant, noting that until now, these nutrients had to be imported. With this new facility, stakeholders in the nutrient fortification chain can now connect and distribute nutrients locally to consumers.

Felix Brooks-Church, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of SANKUPHC, affirmed the organization’s commitment to ensuring every meal consumed by mothers and children contains lifesaving nutrients.

“To ensure effective implementation and monitoring of fortification, it is crucial to equip health officers with the necessary knowledge and tools to oversee compliance at both the production level and in the marketplace,” said BrooksChurch.

He stressed the need for enforcement to achieve a successful national food fortification program, urging government support to make it mandatory for all commercial millers to fortify their products.

He assured that nutrient premix availability will no longer be a barrier for millers. Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr Exaud Kigahe, praised the investment, noting that it would facilitate easier access to nutrients for communities and reduce the need for nutrient imports.

Mr Kigahe revealed that out of 33,721 registered food processors in the country, only 2 per cent currently add nutrients to their products. However, he noted a positive trend: the number of processors adding nutrients increased from 677 in 2022 to 1,282 in 2024.

He mentioned that among the large industries that fortify their products, nine are wheat industries, 13 are cooking oil industries, and nine are salt industries.

He acknowledged that large industries are more likely to add nutrients compared to medium and small enterprises.

“The government is continuing its efforts to ensure that SMEs also add nutrients, as they feed over 80 per cent of Tanzanians,” Mr Kigahe added.

He emphasised, “we now believe they will be able to add these nutrients because the technology is sufficiently available in the country.”

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