DOWA (MaraviPost)— Malawi government’s money amounting to M147 billion is going down the drain yearly due to stunting amongst under-five children. This is according to a recent study which Parliamentary Committee on HIV, AIDS and Nutrition conducted which revealed that about 10 percent (MK147 billion) of the country’s financial plan-2015/2015 was lost due to stunting.Although there have been slight improvement in maternal and child nutrition in Malawi, under-nutrition remains considerably high with almost 37% (this is the latest statistics from the preliminary results of MDHS 2015) under-five children stunted.
This is a cause for worry as malnutrition remains a serious public health problem in country despite efforts by government and its partners.
It is from this background that the Civil Society Organization Nutrition Alliance (CSONA) in Malawi collaborated with government and other development partners towards raising the visibility of nutrition as a core in the socio economic development of the country on Global Day of Action on Nutrition (GDA).
The Global Day of action on Nutrition is an event that served as a window of opportunity to exhibit pressure for action around nutrition at events happening both locally and globally.
With this year’s theme titled “End hunger and malnutrition for a productive Malawi; it is everyone’s responsibility,” gave an opportunity to remind government of its commitment and ask for prioritization of the Nutrition in the upcoming national development strategy documents (MGDS).
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Maravi Post during this year’s commemoration of Global Day of Action on Nutrition on Wednesday at Chizaichi ground, Traditional Authority (T.A) Chakhadza in the central district of Dowa, Deus Gumba Banda, Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on HIV, AIDS and Nutrition expressed sadness over huge amount of money lost due to stunting.
Banda who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Mchinji South West Constituency said that the study which was conducted in six districts including Karonga, Mzimba, Ntchisi, Kasungu, Mulanje and Blantyre revealed a big gap on malnutrition amongst under-five children.
MP Banda said government was losing a lot of taxpayers’ money in the process as stunted children who have physical and mental challenges use more resources which could have been spent on other health pressing issues.
“The study was meant to appreciate all challenges contributing to malnutrition. We found out that the nation wasn’t doing enough especially in rural areas on nutrition. This is the reason the nation still losing 10% of its annual Gross Domestic Product (DGP) due to stunting.
“Stunted children tend to repeat in classes and fail to grow well in the process government spending a lot of money on them which could be used for other pressing issues including building new school blocks and health facilities.
Therefore, it’s high time we stood together as a nation while thinking outside the box with good policies and enough budget allocation,” said Banda.
In his remarks, Blessings Muwalo, Chief Nutritionist, in the department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS revealed that National Nutrition Policy was at an advanced stage which has incorporated all emerging issues including drought, floods and dry spells which contribute to food insecurity.
Muwalo further said the policy was expected to be ready in three months time. He said apart from working on the policy, his department has embarked on Care Group Model Projects where caregivers are trained on children welfare.
According to him, this will change people’s attitudes towards care for under-five children by providing them with nutrition foods for their growth.
Speaking on the same, Tisungeni Zimpita, CSONAs National Coordinator lauded government’s effort towards reducing the stunting growth rate from 42% in 2014 to 37% in 2015 which she said more collaboration was needed.
Zimpita said of 1.4 million children suffering from stunting, there was a need for huge investment in the nutrition sector if the situation is to improve by 25% in 2030.
“At the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London in 2013, the Government of Malawi made several commitments towards nutrition in Malawi. In this perspective, CSONA objectively reflected on what has been achieved in respect to the nutrition commitments made by the government and put in spotlight the need to end hunger and malnutrition through collaborative ways.
“We appreciate government for prioritising nutrition in the Malawi Growth Development Strategy III which is to replace the MGDS II which did not have nutrition in its priority area. This is the reason we call collaboration effort from all stakeholders including government, media, civil society that with resources put together definitely the stunting rates might go down,” said Zimpita.
CSONA is a coalition of both local and international non-profit organizations working to ensure sustained improvements in nutrition in Malawi, and provide support governments nutrition efforts. The Alliance is affiliated to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement.
CSONA is comprised of Concern worldwide, World Vision, and NASFAM with the vision to extend the nutrition momentum: fostering sustainable and equitable scaling-up nutrition in all sectors.