Despite Malawi being one of 12 countries which receive more than half of global nutrition funding, about 42 percent of children in the country are stunted.
World Health Organisation (WHO) describes stunting as children who are short for their age due to malnutrition of the mother when she was pregnant and lack of adequate nutrition in the first 1 000 days of the child’s life.
Poor progress on reducing malnutrition among children is coming against the backdrop of advocacy programmes such as 1 000 special days, nutritional guidelines, policies and standards implemented by both government and civil society organisations.
The new Global Nutrition Report, released yesterday simultaneously in seven cities around the world including Johannesburg, South Africa, shows that the world is off track to reach its targets to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Malnutrition is responsible for nearly half of all deaths of children under five and, together with poor diets, is the number one driver of the global burden of disease, putting a strain on many fragile health systems.
The report indicates that while Malawi has made great progress in reducing under nutrition, especially through exclusive breastfeeding, malnourishment remains a challenge.
The report states that Malawi is also one of the countries closest to being on course to meet goals to reduce anaemia.
The rate of anaemia among reproductive age women is 29 percent in Malawi against a target of cutting the rate to 15 percent by 2025.
According to the report, low income governments such as Malawi are spending only 2.1 percent of the national budget on nutrition programmes against over 30 percent on agriculture, health and education.
Speaking at the launch of the report yesterday, the HIV and Nutrition Committee of Parliament chairperson Deus Gumba said this was why there was active engagement of civil society organisations and government departments such as agriculture, health, education and local government to ensure that issues of nutrition cut across all sectors.
Presenting the report, Lawrence Haddard, co-chair of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group, said the key ingredient to winning the battle against malnutrition is political commitment.
The report also concludes that stunting perpetuates cycles of poverty as malnourishment during either a woman’s own childhood or pregnancy can affect the health of her baby.
During a budget analysis meeting on Monday, Civil Society Organisations Nutrition Alliance (Csona) board chairperson Catherine Mkangama urged members of Parliament from the Health, HIV and Nutrition cluster committee to increase the nutrition budget line, arguing under nutrition remains high in the country.
In the 2016/2017 budget, K338 million was allocated to nutrition, translating to K268 per stunted child per year.
Mkangama said the money is not enough to change the country’s malnutrition rates. n