Cosmas Manyumwa (54) from Chawafambira village in Mutasa is a happy health worker since he is part of a group who are successfully fighting stunting in the area.
Few years ago, the government in partnership with the World Food Programe (WFP), Unicef, Food and Agricultural Organisation (Fao), World Health Organisation (WHO) and some non-governmental organisations launched a stunting prevention programme, which included providing super cereal plus porridge to children between six to 24 months.
“As a village worker, I am happy with the progress as far as fighting stunting is concerned in this area. I also have two children who are under the feeding programme and it is working. The stunting rate is decreasing and that is good news. The porridge is nutritious and good for kids,” Manyumwa said.
Government, through the Health and Child Care ministry, is also supporting the initiative.
However, since the launch of the project in 2014, stunting rates have decreased by 10%.
The super cereal plus is being distributed at 41 of the 43 health centres in Mutasa district.
Recently, scores of villagers thronged Sakupwanya Clinic in Mutasa district, registering to benefit in the next phase of the programme.
“We have seen improvement as far as nutrition is concerned in this area. We had several cases of underweight children, but those who have been receiving the porridge are doing
well. We need more porridge in this area so that we totally deal with stunting in children. The problem we are having is that if a parent gets porridge for his child, all those who are over the stipulated age for beneficiaries are still taking it. This is creating shortages,” said Shandukirai Fombe, another health worker from Mandianike village.
Of the children who participated in the nutritional project in Mutasa district, 50,52% were girls and 49.48% boys.
WFP country director Eddie Rowe hailed other partners for playing an integral part in the reduction of stunting in the area.
“While WFP and Unicef provide the primary nutritional support, the Health and Child Care ministry shares its technical expertise with the community and health workers in
offering additional complimentary services such as immunisations. Working together with these partners supports a comprehensive community of care, contributing not only to stunting prevention, but building a holistic, whole-health approach that is efficient for the whole family.
“Globally, the drivers of stunting are known. For Mutasa, they include poor minimum acceptable diet, poor infant and young child feeding practices (IYCF), poor socio-economic indicators (poverty). The community response was positive because following the health education sessions, which are conducted before distribution, explaining the benefits of
the super cereal plus against stunting. The porridge is also socially acceptable and the children like it,” Rowe said.
According to WFP, if the right investments are made in Zimbabwe, the prevalence of stunting could be reduced by 18% by 2025. A health official in Mutasa said the prevalence of stunting could be attributed to poor diet and disease, amongst other causes.
“This is a mountainous area and the diets are poor as the local people do not consume as much animal source food compared to other areas,” the health official said.
The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey of 2010-11 found that stunting affects more than 30% of Zimbabwean children under the age of five. The problem is especially prevalent in
10 districts located in the four provinces of Matabeleland North, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Masvingo.
At the launch of the Zimbabwe Food and Nutrition Security Policy in 2013, the government noted that malnutrition currently accounted for more than 25% of deaths among children under the age of five.
“We are ready to fight stunting to zero. We need more resources in the form of nutritious food as well as knowledge on stunting. For now, the feeding programme is an oasis in the desert and we are happy by the achievement witnessed across the villages,” Paidamoyo Saurombe (41), also a beneficiary of the programme, said.