Sharp rise in malnutrition cases  

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Sindiso Mhlophe


ZIMBABWE continues to record a sharp increase in cases of malnutrition in women and children, with 1 258 cases registered between January and July compared to 667 over the same period last year.

In its latest report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said due to the drought-induced food insecurity, the majority of households in the country required food assistance to facilitate adequate dietary intake and prevent deterioration of the nutrition status of children, women and other vulnerable groups like the disabled, adding that nationally 56 percent of women were consuming less than five groups of recommended foods.

“The number of pellagra cases reported has continued to increase in Zimbabwe. As per routine data, 1 258 pellagra cases were recorded between January to July 2020, which is double compared to the 667 cases over the same period last year.

“Following increases from 88 pellagra cases in March to 141 in April, 224 in May and 248 in June, 169 cases were reported for July 2020. The numbers of pellagra cases are likely to continue to increase as food insecurity in the country deepens and household income for accessing diversified diets continues to be depleted by the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and economic crisis,” the humanitarian office said.

This comes as over eight million people in the country are currently food insecure owing to the economic woes being worsened by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The humanitarian office indicated that the country had seen pockets of increased cases of malnutrition, particularly in Epworth, Gutu, Binga, Hwange and Mutare urban and rural districts, adding that these hotspots remained a concern and were being closely monitored.

“Of particular concern is an expected increase in child malnutrition, including wasting, due to steep declines in household incomes, changes in the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, and interruptions to health, nutrition, and social protection services resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown

“In August 2020, a total of

472 117 children were screened for acute malnutrition with 89 percent of them being screened at community level in the 25 nutrition intervention priority districts.

“Of the children screened in August 2020, 515 were admitted for treatment of moderate acute malnutrition and 223 were admitted for treatment of severe acute malnutrition. Nationally,

11 976 children were admitted for treatment of severe acute malnutrition between January and August 2020,” OCHA said.

Zimbabwe currently has a budget deficit of US$21 million under the 2020 UN Humanitarian Appeal required to boost nutrition interventions.

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