HomeLocal NewsChronic malnutrition dogs Mash West

Chronic malnutrition dogs Mash West

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Chronic malnutrition has ravaged Mashonaland West province with all districts recording high rates of 29% and above.

Malnutrition, mainly caused by lack of exclusive breastfeeding, usually results in stunted growth in children under the age of five years and contributes as well to the high mortality rate among the under fives.

A recent survey conducted by the Zimbabwe National Nutrition showed extremely low and deteriorating trends in exclusive breastfeeding.

Presenting a paper titled Overview of Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices in Mashonaland West recently at the launch of World Breastfeeding Week, Chegutu district medical officer Tonderai Nhende said only 10,9% of infants in the province were being exclusively breastfed.

“In Chegutu District, none of the infants aged below six months are fed exclusively on breast milk.
“However, the figures are nothing to talk about considering that any given community should have more than 80% of their infants exclusively breastfed for the first six months for the optimal growth and survival of infants and young children,” Nhende said.

He added that Makonde, Zvimba and Chegutu had the highest underweight rates with the figures averaging 12,1%, 11,4% and 10,5% respectively.
“Stunting and underweight begin prior to the age of six months and peak at 24 months. There is little recovery thereafter,” he said.

Nhende also noted that 9,3% of children between six and 23 months of age in the province received the minimum acceptable diet.

Mixed feeding (breast milk with formula, fresh milk or other foods) is universally practiced, but is proven to be a “very risky practice which makes infants more susceptible to infections and death”.

Nhende noted that water, solid foods, formula milk and various fizzy drinks were introduced to infants starting from the first month of life, which he said was detrimental to their health and survival.

He said latest surveys conducted showed that one in three children was stunted, a figure he said was highly unacceptable.

Delaying onset of breastfeeding at birth, giving pre-lacteal feeds, restricting breastfeeding and giving other breast milk substitutions before six months have lapsed was a common practice among all social classes, but this left infants under threat due to high risks of disease infection and stunting.

Malnourished children are most susceptible to disease, suffer cognitive impairment, have poor educational outcomes and have reduced economic productivity as adults.

It is estimated that 12 000 preventable child deaths per year were attributable to under-nutrition in Zimbabwe.

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