Maize rich regions lead in under-fives stunting

20Jun 2019
James Kandoya
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Maize rich regions lead in under-fives stunting

THE irony of under-nutrition in Tanzania’s breadbasket regions has continued with latest statistics showing that 2.6 million under fives stunted in the country live in food-rich Njombe, Rukwa, Ruvuma, Songwe and Iringa regions.

Deborah Charles, a nutritional officer with the Tanzania Food and Nutritional Centre (TFNC) said on Tuesday that the highest numbers were recorded from eleven regions including the breadbasket zone.

She was addressing reporters in Dar es Salaam in a training session on nutrition jointly organised by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Partnership for Nutrition in Tanzania (PANITA) and TFNC.

Other regions where levels of stunting are not to high include Dar es Salaam, Kagera, Kigoma, Mara, Dodoma, Geita, Tanga, Ruvuma, Mbeya, Morogoro and Tabora.

In her presentation relating to the nutritional landscape of Tanzania, the official said although surveyss shown that between 2014 and 2018 the prevalence of stunting dropped from 34.7 percent to 31. 8 percent, the situation was still bad.

She said that World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations emphasize that stunting ought to be kept well below 20 percent of under-fives.

The leading region in stunting are Njombe at 53.6 percent, Rukwa 47.9 percent, Iringa 47.1 percent, Songwe 43.3 percent, Kigoma 42.3 percent and Ruvuma 41.0 percent.

The prevalence of stunting recorded in Tanga region rose from 23. 8 per cent to 34.0 percent during the period, she said.

Low stunting prevalence rates were recorded in Kilimanjaro region with 20.0 percent and Dar es Salaam 20.1 percent on the Mainland as well as the Urban West region of Zanzibar at 20.4 per cent and Pemba South region at 20.8 percent.

“Most people do not know that babies not growing normally would be suffering from stunting. Parents do not know the kind of food they should give their babies,” she asserted.

In the case of wasting or acute malnutrition, the prevalence has dropped from 3.8 to 3.5 percent despite that the number of affected children rose from 445,000 to 480,000 during the period.

The officer noted that a bad situation was recorded in Singida region with 5.2 percent while less affected regions were Kilimanjaro with 1.5 percent and Mtwara 1.6 percent acute malnutrition.

Rising prevalence rates of acute malnutrition were recorded in Singida (0.7 to 3.7 percent), Shinyanga (4.7 to 5.2 percent), Mwanza (2.7 to 4.3 percent), Katavi (1.5 to 3.6 percent) and Geita 1.7 to 3.9 percent).

Among women of reproductive age from 15 to 49 years, acute malnutrition increased from 29.7 to 31 percent.

Regions leading with underweight women were listed as Zanzibar North with 10 percent prevalence rate, South Pemba with 14 percent, Manyara 12 percent, Kagera 12.2 percent and Singida 10.8 percent.

For her part WFP Nutrition Officer Neema Shosho said the foundation of a healthy future for every child is the 1,000 days between a mother's pregnancy and her child's second birthday.

The right nutrition during this critical period puts a child on track to be stronger, healthier and ready to learn, she stated.

Through the Boresha Lishe Project (2017-2021), the WFP aims to improve access to and use of nutritious foods to women and children.

The project is implemented through social behaviour change communication, diversification of food production and distribution of specialised nutritious foods in Bahi and Chamwino districts in Dodoma region, as well as Ikungi and Singida Rural districts in Singida region.

PANITA Nutritional Coordinator Jane Msagati said increased awareness on nutritional issues was highly needed in the community so as to influence behaviour change.

World Bank estimates that countries blighted by stunting and other consequences of malnutrition lose at least 2-3 percent of their Gross Domestic Product, as well as billions of dollars in forgone productivity and avoidable health care spending each year.

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