Chief Nutritionist in the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, Ethel Mwalughali, says there is need to intensify appropriate feeding in infant and young children to reduce micronutrient deficiencies, including anaemia in children.
She said this on Monday during an orientation of Ndisakanizeni Micronutrient Powder (MNP) to Nkhotakota District Health Management Team (DHMT) and District Nutrition Coordinating Committee (DNCC) in Mponela-Dowa.
Mwalughali explained that consequences of poor nutrition are well pronounced among children aged six to 24 months because that is a critical stage in child growth and development which are characterised by high nutritional needs.
“Children who suffer from micronutrient deficiency in early life can experience irreversible damage to their physical and cognitive growth and health. 24.3 per cent of the children aged six to 24 months in Malawi are fed on four or more food groups. We, therefore, need to progress to six food groups.
“Extra efforts are also needed to bring down stunting prevalence in Malawi. The stunting rate was at 37.5 per cent in 2015 and we are working towards bringing it down to less than 20 per cent by 2025,” she said.
The nutritionist said according to World Health Organisation (WHO), use of micronutrient powders are a more effective way of managing iron deficiency, which can help Malawi reduce anaemia whose prevalence is currently at 63 per cent among under-five.
“MNPs strive to improve quality, quantity and frequency of complimentary feeding through the provision of the powders. There is evidence that anaemia can be reduced by 31 per cent and iron deficiency by half (50 per cent) if MNPs are administered appropriately.
“MNP messages will increase care givers’ knowledge and practices in appropriate infant and young child feeding. Besides, the powder intake will also strengthen linkages with other nutrition-sensitive interventions like Water Hygiene and Sanitation (Wash), Agriculture and Health,” she said.
According to one of the facilitators, Felix Mulenga, Ndisakanizeni MNP has 15 essential vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, B and C as well as Iron. In Malawi, it is recommended for children aged between six and 24 months.
“It is recommended that each child aged between six and 24 months should have a single meal mixed with one sachet of Ndisakanizeni powder every day. Ndisakanizeni, however, should not be taken while the child is ill,” he said.