Fish pond serving Kalemba village in Mchinji with nutritious food to reduce stunting

MCHINJI-(MaraviPost)-Malawi is one of the developing nations straggling with malnutrition and stunting amongst under-five children.

Although there have been slight improvement in maternal and child nutrition in Malawi, under-nutrition remains considerably high with almost 37% under-five children stunted. This is the latest statistics from the preliminary results of Malawi Demographic Household Survey – MDHS – 2015 (MDHS).

This revelation remains a daunting task as well as a wakeup call for the nation to do more to avert the current situation.

It is therefore not surprising that the country’s financial year plan allots about MK247 billion annually, representing 10 % of the national budget, on battling stunting.

However, despite this, research shows that major Malawi’s cities, semi-urban, and food basket areas, are topping the list of children with stunted growth; this includes Mchinji which had 52% while Blantyre, Lilongwe, Neno and Mwanza had 30% in 2014.

This is a cause for worry as malnutrition remains a serious public health problem in country, despite efforts by government and its partners to reverse the statistics.

In recognizing that adequate nutrition is a prerequisite for human growth and development, the Malawi government in 2012, with support from the World Bank and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), rolled out a community-based nutrition projects, toward reducing stunting in the central district of Mchinji.

This is in line with the maternal and child nutrition service delivery, that contributes towards the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)-1000 days initiative.

SUN is an international movement aimed at intensifying efforts on scaling up high impact nutrition interventions from conception to two years of the child’s life to reduce under-nutrition.

The  SUN Initiative started in 2014 and branded as Support for Nutrition Improved Component (SNIC), the project is fully operational in five Traditional Authorities (T.As) Mkanda, Mduwa, Nyoka, Zuru and Simphasi in the district.

The initiative aims at improving iron-intake through consumption of iron-rich foods and iron supplementation to women and children, coupled with utilization of safe water and feeding practices by care-givers.

Concern Worldwide in conjunction with the  Nutrition, HIV and AIDS department in the office of the President and Cabinet, is enhancing the initiative with vegetable gardens and improved sanitation programs.

With the operational cost of US$1.64 million and US$796,421 in first and second phases for 2014-2016, and 2016-2018 respectively, the program is targeting 250,000 households to help reduce stunting from 52% to 25% by 2018.

This is the reason Kalemba village, T.A. Mduwa in the district constructed the 500 square metres fish pond to cultivate Makumba type of fish to meet iron food intake in addressing stunting.

The farming program has therefore so far fed about 50 households, and child care centers 80 kilograms of fish harvested from fish ponds since 2014.

This has seen the reduction of stunting growth rate from 52% in 2014 to 44% in 2017 due to consumption of nutritious food like fish among others.

“With the consumption of fish, coupled with vegetables amongst our community members, there is a significant reduction in stunting in children. We have noticed some improvements in the children’s growth due to supplement of foods rich in iron.

“The first phase of harvesting fish, was for distribution among feeding mothers, pregnant women, and under-five children that the second phase will focus on economic empowerment through sales as the communities have appreciated importance of fish farming,” lauded Aston Sakala Nalitengera Fish Club’s Secretary at Kalembo village.

Sakala however, bemoaned the lack of quality fingerlings and extension of the fish farming as only one out of four fish ponds, are in operational.

Angela Nkhonyongwa, Mchinji Concern Worldwide Programs Manager, said although the initiative is making strides to reduce stunting, the fight remains far much from over, especially when considering the slow pace it is taking.

Nkhonyongwa observed there is huge knowledge-gap on nutritious food intake among the communities hence the slow progress.

Echoing on the same, Patrick Mlenga, Mchinji District Council Senior Nutrition Officer, said some traditional believes are undermining efforts to address stunting.

Mlenga added that it was strange to learn that the district recording poor stunting statistics despite being the food basket district, mainly due to communities prioritizing selling foods than consuming. This needs to be addressed, he said.


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