Malawi launches Nutrition, HIV and AIDs project

President Dr. Joyce Banda Thursday launched the Nutrition, HIV and AIDs project which seek to increase access and utilization of selected services known to contribute to the reduction of the child stunting, maternal and child anemia.

With support from the World Bank and the Canadian International for Development Agency (CIDA) the US$103 million (MK38 billion) project will also contribute to prevention of HIV and AIDs in children and sexually active adults.

Speaking at the launch, the President said despite making progress in combating HIV and AIDs and maternal health, the country still had challenges in fighting against stunting and anemia.

Banda said presently 47.1 percent of children were stunted, a development she described to be not health for the country.

President Banda tours the exhibition during the launch.-Photo credit Felix Washon/Mana
President Banda tours the exhibition during the launch.-Photo credit Felix Washon/Mana

She said, “from the time HIV and AIDs was diagnosed in 1985, there has been progress in combating the pandemic but little has been done in reducing stunting and anemia among children and pregnant mothers.”

President Banda further said ”the launch of the project meant change of focus and ensure that the country had policies and programs that supported for nutrition improvement.”

However, to achieve this, the President said there was need for cooperation between Government and all stakeholders involved in the implementation of mother and child programmes.

She then called on Malawians to take nutrition issues seriously. Banda also discouraged cultural practices that forbid one to take nitrous foods.

“I would like to urge traditional leaders to party with us in interrogating some of the cultural practices that contravenes with the mission of this project. Together, we can fight, stunting and also achieve a zero HIV infection rate,” the President said.

Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and AIDs, Edith Mkawa said stunting has a long term effects on cognitive development.

She said one percent of loss in adult height as a result of childhood stunting was associated with a 1.4 percent loss in productivity.

“58 percent of children are under five and 32 percent of non -pregnant women are anemic and this poses a serious public health concern. In children, anemia affects their mental and physical capacity and hinders language learning capacity and academic performance,” Mkawa said adding that the launch of the project was timely as would directly reduce the effects of stunting and HIV and AIDs infections.

Canadian High Commissioner to Malawi, Alain Latulipe said his country was encouraged by the commitment that the Malawi Government had in caring for the under-five children and pregnant mothers.

Latulipe also said looking at the steady progress made by the Malawi Government in combating   HIV and AIDs gave confidence hence the support in the fight against stunting.

“I can assure you Madam President that Canada is committed to ensuring that your country reduces the rate of stunting and anemia by a reasonable percentage. We have confidence in you because you have already fought against reducing HIV and AIDs,” the Ambassador said.

Sandra Bloemenkamp, Country Manager for the World Bank said the Bank Would provided all the necessary support to ensure that the country achieve its Malawi Development Growth Strategies (MDGs).

Malawi has made considerable gains in child survival and maternal health but no significant improvement have been recorded in stunting which is at 47.1 percent.

Bloemenkamp said looking at this mean progress the Malawi government has done on child survival is what has prompted  the World Bank and CIDA to provide funding for the project which would scale up maternal and child nutrition service delivery both at community and national levels.

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