ACUTE malnutrition cases are on the rise in Zimbabwe as food shortages and broader economic hardships take a devastating toll on children – the silent victims of bad leadership and poor governance.
A Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment (ZimVac) 2020 Rural Assessment report shows that the percentage of children receiving a minimum acceptable diet necessary for growth and development declined from 6.9% recorded in 2019 to 2.1%.
Without adequate meal frequency, the majority of children are left vulnerable to malnutrition, especially stunting with Matabeleland North cited as having the highest cases of global acute malnutrition (Gam) cases in the country.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) describes Gam as the presence of both severe acute malnutrition and moderate acute malnutrition identified by severe and moderate wasting respectively.
Gam is also used as a measure of the nutritional status of a population and basic indicator for assessing the severity of a humanitarian crisis.
“Global Acute Malnutrition in Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Masvingo has reached 5% which is a benchmark for public health emergency. Nationally, global acute malnutrition in 2020 was 4.5%, an increase from 3.6% in 2019. The highest prevalence was in Matabeleland North (5.5%) and lowest in Mashonaland East (3.1%),” the ZimVac report says.
ZimVac is a technical advisory committee comprised of representatives from government, development partners, UN, non-governmental organisations, technical agencies and the academia.
A total of 200 households were interviewed per district, bringing the total sampled households to 11 971. The researchers used household food insecurity prevalence as the key indicator to determine the sample to ensure 95% confidence level of statistical representativeness at district, provincial and national level.
According to the report, Manicaland has also reached the 5% mark, followed by the Midlands (4.9%), Matabeleland South (4.5%), Mashonaland West (4.4%) and Mashonaland Central (4.1%).
“Nationally, 82.9% of the households were within the none or light hunger category, 15.6% in the moderate hunger and only 1.4% were in the severe hunger category. Matabeleland South had the highest proportion (2.6%) of households that were within the severe hunger category and Mashonaland East had the least, 0.3%,” the report says.
“All provinces had a decrease in the proportion of households consuming acceptable diets and an increase in the proportion of households consuming poor diets. Matabeleland North (44%) and Masvingo (38%) had the highest proportion of households consuming poor diets.”
According to Unicef, severe acute malnutrition is a major cause of death in children under five, and its prevention and treatment are critical to child survival and development.
Across the globe, an estimated 16 million children under the age of 5 are affected by severe acute malnutrition.