One in four children is stunted in Namibia: Angula

30 Sep 2015 20:20pm


Only 12 per cent of Namibian children aged six months to 23 months are receiving the recommended minimum number of meals per day.

This shocking revelation was made by Chairperson of the Namibia Alliance for Improved Nutrition (Nafin), Nahas Angula at the just ended two-day seminar on malnutrition in the capital. The Parliament of Namibia hosted the event under the theme 'Promoting child nutrition in the SADC Region' jointly with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).

The event commenced on Monday and ended on Tuesday. Malnutrition is defined as a condition of not growing properly as a child; adults who are too thin; or people who are deficient in vitamins and minerals that are essential to survival. This condition is caused by the interaction of poor diets and unhealthy environments.

In his presentation 'Overcoming barriers to nutrition', Angula noted that Namibia has made progress in reducing stunting. In 2006, the country?s stunting level was 29 per cent, which reduced to 24 per cent in 2013.

There is strong evidence that open defecation is a cause of stunting, according to Angula. Namibia has a high rate of open defecation, with almost half of the population not having access to proper ablution facilities.

There has also been very little progress in increasing the coverage of improved sanitation. Given the link to stunting, eliminating open defecation must be a national priority, said Angula.

"Despite the progress in stunting reduction, the level remains unacceptably high. One in four children is stunted in Namibia," he cautioned.

Stunting is also associated with mothers' education, wealth status and place of residency. Children living in rural areas are two times more likely to be stunted than children living in urban areas; children from the poorest households are three times more likely to be stunted than children from the wealthiest households; while children whose mothers have no education are almost four times more likely to be stunted than children whose mothers have secondary education or higher.

The barriers to nutrition in Namibia are multi-faceted and include social and behavioural factors such as poor infant and young child-feeding practices; inequitable access to health services due to poverty and or geographic challenges; and household food insecurity affecting the quality of food that is available to children within the home, which is exacerbated by recurrent drought in the country and a very low coverage of improved sanitation.

"The structural or institutional barriers that Parliamentarians can address are related to the enabling environment for nutrition; namely, dedicated budget allocation for nutrition and adoption of legislation and regulations that protect, promote and support breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding," he added.

Opening the two-day parliamentary seminar on malnutrition in southern Africa, Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) of Lesotho, Ntlhoi Motsamai raised the concern that the region has relatively high levels of chronic malnutrition, and the matter does not get the attention it deserves.

"It should be the purview of all stakeholders, especially the decision-makers, including us parliamentarians, as it requires courageous decisions. It is crucial that we coordinate our efforts in a coherent manner, as recommended by the SADC Regional Food and Nutrition Security Strategy 2015-2025. That would go a long way to guarantee children a healthy life and a good growth rate," she noted.

About 15 members of parliament from the SADC region used the platform to share lessons learned, discuss the latest evidence from the region and gain a deeper understanding of the tools at their disposal to respond to and advocate for the reduction of malnutrition in their respective countries.