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Kagera grapples with stunting of children

CONCERTED efforts are still needed to ensure that hundreds of stunted children in Kagera Region are saved.

A recent initial baseline survey indicated that about 224,364 children aged below five were stunted. Minimum acceptable diet stood at 18.1 per cent compared to the national average of 30.3 per cent. The rate of continued breastfeeding at two years stood at 44.4 per cent while the national average was 43.3 per cent.

The rate of exclusive breastfeeding stood at 85 per cent and meal frequency per day stood at 55 per cent. While some efforts have been made to reduce the rate of stunting from 41.7 per cent during 2015/16 to 39.8 per cent during 2019 more efforts were still needed.

It is high time that every person cooperates to realise the goal of malnutrition-free in Kagera Region. Without necessary actions children will remain at greater risk in the region.

Kagera Regional Nutrition Officer Yusuf Hamis has urged stakeholders to join hands in fighting malnutrition and hidden hunger noting that more efforts should be made to educate families especially women on the importance of breastfeeding and eating food varieties rich in micronutrients, proteins and vitamin A.

The region has enough food varieties including bananas, beans and fisheries resources notably from Lake Vitoria and 14 satellite lakes….food availability is not a problem. Families should be educated on the best food varieties to eat on daily basis.

Kagera Region is among regions with high rate of stunting among children aged below five years, which currently stands at 39.8 per cent while the national average stands at 34 per cent. Other regions with high rate of stunting in brackets include Njombe (53.6 per cent), Iringa (47.1 per cent), Rukwa (47.9 per cent), Songwe (43.3 pc ), Kigoma (42.3 pc) and Ruvuma (41.0 pc).

In 2015, more than 2.7 million Tanzanian children under 5 years of age were estimated to be stunted and more than 600,000 were suffering from acute malnutrition, of which 100,000 were severe cases. There are huge variations in the nutritional status of children under 5 years of age.

Ten regions account for 58 per cent of all stunted children and five regions account for half of the children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Tanzania. All three forms of undernutrition are higher among children from the poorest quintile than the richest quintile and higher among boys than girls.

During the period 1992– 2015, there was a tangible reduction in the number of underweight children and in those suffering from chronic malnourishment. Significant progress was made in the nutritional status of children under five between 1992 and 2015.

Stunting or chronic malnutrition decreased from 50 to 34 per cent, acute malnutrition from 7 to 5 per cent and underweight from 24 to 14 per cent. Children under 6 months who were breastfed exclusively increased significantly in Tanzania, from 29 to 59 per cent between 1996 and 2015.

Anaemia among children aged 6 months to 5 years decreased from 72 per cent in 2005 to 59 per cent in 2010. The coverage of Vitamin A supplementation among children aged 6 months to 5 years rose from 46 per cent in 2005 to 72 per cent in 2014.

The proportion of households using adequately iodized salt increased from 47 to 61 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Qualified nutrition officers have been appointed in all districts and regions of Tanzania. However, despite these gains, concerns persist regarding the high rates of stunting among children and the stark disparities in nutritional status.

Progress on various indicators has been either stagnant or has slipped. Given the importance of nutrition in the overall physical and cognitive development of children, there is a need to focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to prevent the negative effects of malnutrition from becoming irreversible.

This requires a multipronged approach to address risk factors ranging from inadequate food and illness to poor access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. High rates of anaemia and low body mass index among adolescent girls and pregnant women are also causes of concern.

Investing in nutrition is essential for Tanzania to progress. It is estimated that the country will lose US$20 billion by 2025 if the nutrition situation does not improve. In contrast, by investing in nutrition and improving the population’s nutritional status, the country could gain up to US$4.7 billion by 2025.

Tools are in place to track progress in scaling-up nutrition interventions such as quarterly scorecards, annual
nutrition reviews, biannual national nutrition surveys and public expenditure reviews of the nutrition sector every three years.

Average spending on nutrition at local government level has increased from 65m/- to 125m/- between fiscal years 2011/12 and 2015/16. 

THE Old Fort (Swahili: Ngome Kongwe), also ...

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Author: MEDDY MULISA

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