Zambia: Concern over worsening nutritional status of children

from IRIN
Published on 23 Dec 2002
JOHANNESBURG, 23 Dec 2002 (IRIN) - With about three million Zambians identified as needing food aid up to March 2003, concern has been expressed at the worsening nutritional status of children in the country.
The latest UN Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office (RIACSO) report on the Southern Africa humanitarian crisis pointed out that "routine nutrition surveillance in Zambia continue to show a slow but steady increase in the proportion of children with acute global malnutrition".

"National estimates now range between 4 percent and 7 percent. An increase in Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) - wasting and underweight - was reported as well as a marked incidence of pellagra, an indication of food shortage and vitamin B deficiency (nicotinic acid)," the RIACSO report said.

Meanwhile, the UN Resident Coordinator's report on the humanitarian situation in Zambia said "significant progress has been made in establishing systems for nutritional surveillance and monitoring" in the country.

Such a system, RIACSO had said, would "greatly increase information flows on the status of nutrition in at-risk populations".

The resident coordinator's report said the "Emergency Nutrition Task Force is now implementing nutritional surveys in 19 districts in cooperation with NGOs, UNICEF [UN Children's Fund] and WFP [World Food Programme]".

One survey was completed, in the Shangombo district, and further three were underway - at Monze, Kazangula and Kaloma - while another three would commence in late December. Results from all these assessments would hopefully all be available in early January.

"A framework for nutritional surveillance has also been finalised. Fifty four sentinel sites in 14 districts have been selected. A pilot has commenced in Monze district. Preliminary analysis of data will occur at district level, and this will be fed back to the national Disaster Management and Monitoring Unit (DMMU), where a food security and nutrition surveillance system is being established," the resident coordinator added.

CONCERN and UNICEF had approached the government with a plan to augment the DMMU with technical expertise and support.

"UNICEF will provide support to build a strong linkage between the DMMU and the National Food and Nutrition Committee (NFNC). UNICEF is strengthening supplementary feeding facilities in order to address the acute problem of late referral of those at risk to therapeutic feeding programmes," the report said.


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