Minister says malnutrition decimating third of population

09Sep 2017
Angel Navuri
The Guardian
Minister says malnutrition decimating third of population

FINANCE and Planning Minister Dr Philip Mpango has termed malnutrition as a national disaster, saying it accounts for one-third of all the deaths in the country.

FINANCE and Planning Minister Dr Philip Mpango

Dr Mpango noted that in every 100 children, 34 were dwarfs while in every 100 children aged between six months and five years, 59 suffered from leukemia.

“The government spends 2 per cent of its national income ($ 518 million) to purchase Vitamin ‘A’ and folic acid which are used to control blood levels,” said the minister when addressing delegates to the 4th annual general meeting of Scaling Up Nutrition -SUN in Dodoma recently.

He underscored the need for agricultural experts to come up with new techniques to make farmers practice nutrition smart agriculture as part of efforts to fight against malnutrition and dwarfism.

Dr Mpango insisted that his ministry would ensure that all the funds set aside for the improvement of people’s health and the fight against malnutrition were disbursed. He said that in this year’s financial budget, the government had set aside Sh11bn for the purpose.

“I will make sure all the funds are disbursed accordingly…we are even going to seek financial support from our development partners outside the country in order to improve the health of our children,” he noted.

Deputy Minister in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) Suleiman Jafo directed all district councils across the country to provide latest data pertaining to expenditure of malnutrition funds every month. He said such reports should be submitted to their specific standing committees responsible for finance and administration.

Jafo explained that previously the government was setting aside Sh500 for every child per month, but in the 2017/2018 fiscal year the amount had increased to Sh1,000 per month, which was equivalent to Sh11bn.

The deputy minister informed that Vice-President Samia Suuhu Hassan had recently directed the ministry to get performance contracts from all the regional commissioners, an exercise which had already begun and would end on September 22, 2017.

He urged district and regional medical officers to give priority to nutritional health.

He however noted that about 660 nutritional officers would soon be employed countrywide. He said the country faced a shortage of nutritional officers as there were only 121, of which 17 worked in different regions and 104 were in district councils.

For his part, USAID Resident Director Andrew Karas applauded the government for taking responsibility to regulate nutritional matters and act as a coordinator between donors, stakeholders and the government.

Karas stressed the importance of working with stakeholders, calling on the government to provide them with full support so that they were able to implement their duties.

“We all have a common goal of improving the health of our children and minimize malnutrition risks in the country,” said Karas.

Scaling Up Nutrition–SUN project includes a variety of stakeholders including Children Investment Fund, DfID, European Union (EU), Global Affairs Canada, Irish Aid and USAID.

Speaking on behalf of international organizations working under SUN, Maniza Zaman, who is the UNICEF Resident Representative, said that fighting malnutrition and ensuring the availability of nutritious food went together with the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Partnership for Nutrition in Tanzania (PANITA) Tumaini Mikindo urged the government to ring-fence funds allocated for nutritional matters.

“These funds should be ring-fenced to avoid their being misused. The government should take stringent measures against any officials proved to misuse the funds,” said Mikindo, who represented over 300 social society organizations working under SUN.

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