By JULIUS PHIRI –
IT is always said that a person’s nutritional status is determined by a number of factors which, among others, include access to adequate food, good health and sanitation.
That is besides factors like affordable food prices, food availability, stability of sources of income and general education of mothers.
Poverty is the major underlying determinant for the presence of the factors.
The other principal causes of malnutrition relate to the high prevalence of infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, insufficient care for the vulnerable – especially children – and poor environmental, economic and social conditions.
Poor weaning practices and infrequent and inappropriate feeding also contributes to malnutrition.
The deteriorating economic situation in the aftermath of economic reforms in several African countries has contributed to the rising number of malnutrition cases.
Among the major nutrition problems affecting vulnerable groups of women, children and the poor in Zambia, is protein energy malnutrition.
However, Zambia’s commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of its children has been demonstrated by the ratifications of various conventions which have been developed at such international meetings as the World Summit on Children in 1990, the International Conference on Nutrition in 1992 and the Millennium Summit in 2000.
In children, malnutrition comprises their cognitive development, immunity and physical growth.
Adequate nutrition has always been fundamental and critical to the achievement of the following six of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty thereby achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and helping to combat HIV/AIDS.
This chapter provides scope of accelerating food and nutrition security interventions nationwide.
Results from Living Conditions Monitoring Survey (LCMS) show that urban children have better nutritional status than rural children.
Locally, the National Food and Nutrition Commission of Zambia was established to act as an advisory body to Government on issues of food and nutrition.
This commission is now mandated to coordinate the first 1,000 Most Critical Days Programme (MCDP) whose aim is to reduce stunting among children in the country.
The first 1,000 days in a child’s life are a crucial window of opportunity because the brain develops rapidly, laying the foundation for future cognitive and social ability.
Currently 14 districts in the country including Chipata District are coordinating the MCDP.
In Chipata, the programme kicked off in April, 2015 and a lot has been done so far.
According to Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Fund programme, Eastern Province Nutrition Support Coordinator Xavier Pwete Tembo, different public departments and other partners from the private sector have realised and committed themselves to working together under the SUN FUND 1000 MCDP.
Mr Tembo explained that ministries of Agriculture, Health, Community Development, Local Government and Housing and General Education as well as private sector organisations such as World Vision, Development Aid from People to People (DAPP), CARE International and Mawa Project have all come together under the umbrella of the District Nutrition Coordinating Committee (DNCC) in order to synergise their efforts and resources.
He expressed happiness with the way the committee was bringing key sectors together in the fight against malnutrition in the district.
“The success of any programme depends on, among other things, the structural model strategically established to support the implementation process. In the SUN first 1000 MCDP, which is a programme meant to reduce stunting in children below 2 years, the implementation model hinges on a multi-sectoral approach where all key nutrition players endeavour to work together in order to achieve a bigger impact,” he said.
He said the first 1000 MCDP was an opportunity for stakeholders to blend the financial, human and physical resources in order to improve society’s nutritional status through collaborative participation.
“As key-line departments, we receive SUN financial support in order to scale up, widen or improve our services to the community in Chipata District with the sole purpose of scaling up nutrition to reduce stunting. Collaboration is the backbone of the success of the first 1000 MCDP,” he said.
Mr Tembo said the collaboration was in itself a message and it brings incalculable value to both the neighbourhoods in which it was operating and the individuals that live there.
This value includes stronger bonds between communities where relationships between diverse groups are strengthened and the risks of social breakdown and social isolation are minimised.
Neighbourhoods are encouraged to be active so that local people come together to participate and contribute to a vibrant community life.
“Self-help, where people take more responsibility for themselves and for each other by finding their own solutions to local problems and community identity, where local people have a sense of belonging and a pride in their neighbourhood,” he said.
He said the efforts and opportunities would enable community structures combine efforts and work together.
“But I am happy with the coordination and collaboration efforts in the fight against under-nutrition in Chipata District specifically under the SUN FUND programme. The reality on the ground is that there are so many nutrition programmes running at different levels by different sectors both public and private,” he stated.
Mr Tembo was aware that collaboration does not only increase capacity but it also synergises efforts and prevents implementers from repeating the same mistakes in their silos.
The coloration also creates a platform where different players in the nutrition field learn from each other’s experiences.
Collaboration and coordination was indispensable in the fight against under-nutrition.
The synergy created from working collaboratively has resulted in greater accomplishments, such as increasing participation in order to create community awareness, because many voices talk about the same message to the same people.
With the pace at which collaboration efforts were moving, players and stakeholders were optimistic that the programme would yield its result in the district.
However, there is need to urge other institutions and organisations that have not yet been captured to join the committee whose mandate is to coordinate all nutrition efforts in Chipata.
Let all nutrition players join this journey so that stunting could be reduced in the district.