ONE in three children are chronically malnourished in Zimbabwe and the situation may worsen amid Covid-19 which has forced the country to channel most of its resources towards preventing the viral infection.
Malnutrition refers to any condition in which the body does not receive enough nutrients for proper function. With Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, many families have lost their sources of livelihood which left them with no means to buy food and other necessities.
The World Health Organisation in Zimbabwe says countries will need to balance the demands of responding directly to Covid-19, while simultaneously engaging in strategic planning and coordinated action to maintain delivery of essential health and nutrition services.
Mr Innocent Mazarura, a nutritionist in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said it was important for resources to be availed towards nutrition as the country was already battling to address iron deficiency in women and children.
“According to the Zimbabwe 2018 Nutrition Survey report, the national rate of child stunting, a manifestation of chronic malnutrition, is 26.2 per cent in Zimbabwe, which means nearly one in every three children are chronically malnourished. We have outstanding issues related to malnutrition that we have been dealing with as a country from years ago which explains why there is great need that we continue channeling resources towards nutrition even in the wake of Covid-19,” he said.
Mr Mazarura added that any nutritional deficiencies increased the risk of members of the public to diseases like Covid-19 which affects those with weaker immune systems.
“When nutrition is ignored during emergencies like Covid-19, cases of malnutrition may shoot especially in children and thereby compromise their immune systems. There is also an issue of micro nutrient deficiency experienced even in adults which tend to compromise their well-being,” he said.
According to WHO, deteriorating infant and young child feeding practices due to reduced household food access will be a likely result.
“There is need to identify essential supplies for core nutrition services and include them in the Covid-19 response plans. Policy makers should also ensure there is supplementation of Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) for pregnant mothers and also consider multiple micronutrient supplementation in food insecure areas and promote Vitamin A supplementation for children using health facilities,” said WHO in a statement.