Child malnutrition represents pressing development challenge

17Aug 2016
The Guardian
Child malnutrition represents pressing development challenge

TANZANIA has sustained high rates of economic growth in recent years, but it has had limited direct impact on the majority of Tanzanians’ lives.

Despite attempts at policy level to create a national social protection agenda, little concrete progress has been made. Child poverty rates are alarming, suggesting an acute need for comprehensive, well-articulated and well-targeted social protection measures.

Over one-third of child deaths in Tanzania are due to under nutrition. There have been aggregate improvements over the past two decades but progress has been mixed at best.

The underlying causes of malnutrition are complex and need to take into account a range of economic and social risks that govern access to food, eg. unstable rural livelihoods,

commodity price fluctuations and low uptake of healthcare. Many rural households dependent on subsistence agriculture are both cash and asset poor and thus not resilient to economic and climatic shocks. Both rural and urban poor are highly vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations.

Child malnutrition represents a pressing development challenge in Tanzania, but evidence suggests that social protection programming is far from fulfilling its potential to bring about genuine transformation in children’s lives. The groups most vulnerable to malnutrition (infants,

young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers) have not been covered sufficiently or targeted adequately in current social protection programmes.

Therefore, caregivers and infants must be at the centre of future initiatives, and this could be achieved without significant additional budget outlay.

It has come to our attention that seven out of every 10 children in Tanzania are living in poverty, according to a new report by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The report released last week details child poverty in the country on a monetary basis and gauges other parameters such as nutrition, sanitation, education, water, health, housing, protection and access to information.

The Child Poverty in Tanzania 2016 survey shows that 26 per cent of children are from poor households, and are thus deprived of basic needs like health, education and sanitation in what the report refers to as "multidimensional poverty".

The report also indicates that 48 per cent of children are from families that do not experience monetary poverty, and yet they experience multidimensional poverty. The third group comprises three per cent of children, who are experiencing monetary poverty alone.

The three categories combine make up 77 per cent of children who are experiencing either monetary or multidimensional poverty or both. Only 23 per cent of children in the country do not face any kind of poverty, according to the report.

According to the last national census of 2012, there are 24 million children (under 18) in the country, and this means about 18 million of them are living in poverty.

The study was conducted in three phases from 2008 to 2013 and involved 5,010 households, of which 3,947 had children. Data was obtained from 11,843 children involved in the study.