Regional Commissioner Juma Homera yesterday gave district commissioners in the region 30 days to liaise with nutrition officers and come up with meal guidelines to be distributed up to the village level.
The RC said the 33.8 per cent rate of stunting in Mbeya is unacceptable considering the fact that it is one of Tanzania’s leading grain producers.
The Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey for 2015-16 showed that the average rate of stunting in the country among children less than five years stood at 36 per cent.
The situation is even worse in other food-rich regions such as Rukwa (56.3), Njombe (49.4), Arusha (36.0), Geita (40.5) and Iringa (41.6).
This move is partly prolonged implementation of the National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (2016/17 –2020/21) which required regional leaders and nutrition officers to draw up and implement nutrition action plans to address the challenge.
Stunted growth among children is chiefly characterised by low height-for-age, a sign of chronic under-nutrition arising from grossly inadequate nutrition over a long period. It can also be brought about or enhanced by recurrent or chronic illness, experts say.
The RC issued these instructions at the weekend at a meeting to discuss nutrition in the region, attended by various stakeholders including government officials and representatives of development partners and multilateral agencies, including UNICEF, the UN Fund for Children.
“Once you prepare the schedules, use the media to advertise them and educate the people to enable them understand. We should reach a time to abandon debates on the stunting of children in our region; it is shameful to debate the issue while we have everything in this region,” he declared.
He also called on district administrators o make follow ups on issues of stunting in wards and villages, including identifying families with such children in order to find the means to assist them, similarly asking district councils to set aside funds for the implementation of the exercise.
Earlier, submitting a report on nutrition in the region, the Regional Nutrition Officer Benson Sanga said stunting has various adverse effects in the community, including slow child growth be it physically or mentally.
Stunted women were more prone to having difficulties during delivery and likely to face life threatening situations, while children with stunting are also easily infected by diseases, including heart diseases, diabetes and cancer when they attain advanced ages, he explained.
Regional Administrative Officer Dr Angelina Lutambi said the level of stunting in the region was high, thus officials should work together to fight the menace.