Malnutrition adversely impacting on continent’s development: Machel

Graca Machel
Graca Machel

Former first lady Graca Machel believes that the lack of adequate nutrition for women and children has had detrimental outcomes on the overall economic‚ social and political development of Africa.

Machel spoke at the SADC launch of the annual Global Nutrition Report‚ released earlier this month‚ in Johannesburg on Tuesday‚ which was jointly hosted by the trust in her name and the World Food Programme.

According to the report 155 million children globally are stunted - often due to a lack of nutrients - with as many as 28% of children under five in southern Africa too short for their age.

Alarmingly 6% of the same group of children in the SADC region suffer from wasting‚ 1% from severe wasting and an additional 12% are underweight.

“In spite of significant progress in reducing levels of malnutrition by the SADC countries‚ malnutrition remains stubbornly high‚ with two thirds of countries in the region showing levels of stunting above 30%‚” Machel said.

Machel believed that the right to nutrition for women and children is inter-related‚ as a lack of adequate nutrition - especially for pregnant women and children in the first 24 months of their life - is often a key contributor to the high levels of child mortality‚ stunting and the associated loss of human capital.

“This in turn has detrimental outcomes on the overall economic‚ social and political development of the continent‚” she said.

“Africa’s women and children deserve to live full and productive lives and this requires access to enough nutritious food 365 days a year.”

The report shows that SADC countries have a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition‚ and progress in global nutrition targets is slow or moving backwards.

Acting Regional Director of the World Food Programme‚ Lola Castro‚ said that the coexistence of undernutrition and overweight is also a growing challenge for the region.

“Continued focus on nutrition-specific interventions‚ particularly those that prevent malnutrition‚ is necessary‚ but nutrition-sensitive approaches are also essential in accelerating progress towards ending malnutrition in all its forms‚" said Castro.

In 2014 all SADC countries committed to improving the nutritional status of all children and in particular‚ the elimination of child undernutrition with a view to bringing down stunting to 10% and underweight to 5% by 2025‚ with the signing of the Malabo Declaration.