UN warns of  increased malnutrition

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Sindiso Mhlophe

©️  THE United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that the country is likely to experience up to 50 percent increase in child malnutrition owing to the country’s worsening economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).

This comes as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned of a gloomy picture ahead for Zimbabwe as the deadly Covid-19 pandemic continues impacting major sectors of the country’s ailing economy, while exposing pre-existing weaknesses in the health system among other key sectors.
The OCHA indicated that since the beginning of May, over 450 000 children were screened for acute malnutrition, through a Unicef programme, in the country’s 25 priority districts and that of those screened, 758 were admitted for treatment.
“According to 2019’s Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, approximately 95 000 children under age 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition, with a national global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence at 3,6 percent.
“These cases of acute malnutrition are expected to start increasing from the month of June onwards. A major concern is the potential impact of disruption of services due to Covid-19 on malnutrition which would translate into a 10 to 50 per cent increase of acute malnutrition in the worst-case scenario equivalent to 9 500 to 47 500 children,” OCHA said.
OCHA further said that the total number of pellagra cases reported in the first quarter of 2020 had doubled to 482 when compared to 264 cases reported in the same period in 2019.
Pellagra is a disease caused by a lack of the vitamin niacin or vitamin B3 and the Symptoms include inflamed skin, diarrhoea, dementia, and sores in the mouth.
“Approximately 747 cases of pellagra were recorded from January to April. April had the highest number of cases, 274, with most of the cases coming from Masvingo province, 150. The number of cases has doubled compared to the same period last year. About 1 500 doses for treatment of pellagra are under procurement by Unicef and the sensitisation of nurses on pellagra causes, signs and treatment is planned,” OCHA said.
“Incidence of pellagra, which is highest among the adult women, is an indication of the continued very poor household dietary diversification.
“Due to the drought-induced food insecurity, most of the households in the country require food assistance to facilitate adequate dietary intake and prevent deterioration of the nutrition status of children, women and the general community.
“Already nationally 56 percent of women consume less than five groups of foods recommended,” OCHA added.
The humanitarian organisation indicated that there was need for resource mobilisation to address nutrition needs.


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