Founder of Graça Machel Trust (GMT) who is Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel says Malawi with a record of 23 percent of all child mortality cases associated with under-nutrition; there is need to increase awareness and advocacy at all levels on social-economic impact of malnutrition.
Speaking in Lilongwe at Bingu International Conference Centre during a nutrition champion workshop organised by Civil Society Organizations Nutrition Alliance in Malawi (CSONA), Machel asked the country’s civil society to do extra gear of establishing and strengthen coordination at district level for effective nutrition programme implementation through a coherent and effective approach.
“I am not only a mother but I am a grandmother, I worry deeply with the unnecessary deaths which we are having in this country. We have to begin to value to African lives, to say every life counts. And to feel that there is more that we can do to prevent these deaths.
“I want real more proactive attitude of civil society in this country, this is what will bring the movement to influence politicians, if we don’t have a strong movement of civil society organisations,” says Machel who once served as first lady of two countries Mozambique and South Africa.
Delegates to the nutrition workshop observed that in the last recent State of the National address made by President Peter Mutharika in Parliament there was no mention of ‘stunted’, yet the civil society did not do anything about it.
Today, 1.4 million or almost half of the children in Malawi are stunted and that the total annual costs associated with child undernutrition are estimated at MK147 billion. Only 1 out of 3 children with under nutrition are estimated to be receiving proper health attention.
Underweight children have a 30% increased risk of suffering from anemia, 23% of child mortality cases in Malawi are associated with undernutrition. Child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced Malawi’s workforce by 10.7%.
Stunted children are more likely to drop out of school, achieving 1.5 years less in education. Of all school year repetitions, 18% are associated with stunting and that 66% of the adult population engaged in manual activities were stunted as children, representing an annual loss of MK16.5 billion (US$67 million) alone.
Eliminating stunting in Malawi therefore is a necessary step for sustained development in the country.
“I told the UN family this morning, they say na-na-na-na because government, I said ah-ah-ah you are here, this government has very clear plan to implement nutrition policy, the UN have their responsibility and can’t run away, you too should not run away from your responsibility as civil society, that is my view,” says Machel.
In 2012, Malawi committed alongside 175 other governments to global goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths by the year 2035. To achieve the child survival goals set by Malawi’s National Health Plan and in line with the Scaling Up Nutrition global movement, in 2013 Malawi introduced a five-year National Nutrition Policy (NNP) to prevent stunting and address malnutrition, in all its forms, including severe acute malnutrition, wasting, underweight, anemia, and other micronutrient deficiencies.
The plan calls for scaling up evidence-based innovative approaches to prevent and treat malnutrition, especially in women, children, and marginalized populations, increasing annual funding levels for nutrition efforts from the Malawi government.
It also calls for elevating nutrition as a critical component of success in all sectors, including health, education, agriculture, and gender as well as protecting and empowering individuals to demand access to safe, nutritious food and quality nutrition services.
The development of the NNP led by President Peter Mutharika and the Department of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS, but the implementation of this plan requires both the national and district efforts and funding to be scaled up to improve the health and nutritional status of under-five children, women of child-bearing age, and vulnerable populations.
Machel said international and local non-governmental organisations are all talking about implementation.
“I am not saying international NGO’s are not important, am saying the international NGO’s they move the agenda according to the global agenda but we have also which is to prevent death of children, death of women. Hunger, famine will never change as the national agenda but it can be changed as a global agenda. This is why am saying one of the major evaluation of success is to build national capacity and Community Based Organisations,” says Machel.
She also called for increased transparency on budgets for nutrition and increased access to decision making on investment at all levels including district councils as it relates to nutritional spending.
She, however say from CSONA, there is need to create a grouping at district level where parliamentarians, civil society, faith-based groups, and every Malawians would call for full implementation of the plan.
Presenting his paper titled; ‘Scaling up Nutrition in Every District’, Elvis Sukali of Save the Children concur with Machel saying throughout Malawi, more than 1 in every 3 children is stunted and that in the hardest hit areas that number is more than 1 in every 2. This is an emergency for our communities.
Sukali said while the NNP puts in place key policies to promote nutrition, no targets have been set to ensure the Department of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS reaches every woman and child with quality nutrition. The plan lacks an annual reporting process to parliament and other key stakeholders.
“Each year, over 600,000 Malawian children are born. If systems to address malnutrition are not addressed to bring quality nutrition to every district for every child, each year, an additional 300,000 children will not reach their full potential for lack of quality nutrition in the 1,000 Day window. Every child deserves the opportunity to build their own future, regardless of where she is born,” says Sukali.
He said in order to ensure the NPP meets its budget and policy goals, bold targets must be set and more accountability must be put in place.
Rachel Toku Appia, coordinator of Graça Machel Trust says they have partnered with CSONA in building capacity and work collaboratively with civil society networks and partners to collective and influence decisions on children’s rights.
Appia said GMT will focus on building campaigns that promote the dignity of African Children and calls for the provision of their holistic needs to enable them to thrive vision of the African Children, ending child marriage, promoting girl’s education and nutrition as a development priority.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :