IT WILL continue to be a challenge for Zambia to make good progress in addressing malnutrition, if current trends of poor funding of nutrition interventions persist.
As a country, we need an effective nutrition funding mechanism if we are to guarantee a future free of malnutrition to Zambiaâ€™s children.
Currently, nutrition interventions or programmes are poorly funded in Zambia.
A recent research conducted by the government and the World Bank estimates US$48m as needed annually to scale up nutrition. The same research highlighted the current government budget for nutrition specific and sensitive is only US$3.2m and estimated donor support of US$14.4m.
CSO-SUN is concerned with reductions in allocation to key nutrition programmes, especially within Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health (MCDMCH). For instance, Infant and Young Child Feeding Counselling (IYCF) reduced by 1 percent from 2014 amounting to a K1,332 reduction, Micronutrient Programme reduced by 4 percent amounting to K7,210, and Focused Ante Natal Care & Safe Motherhood reduced by 39 percent that is a reduction of K226,929 while Management of Malnutrition (MAM) only received an increase of K7,161.
These allocations in the 2015 budget to nutrition programmes are worrisome as they are not enough to bring about the desired impact.
Malnutrition is a serious problem and there is need for all stakeholders to show more commitment.
The problems of poor nutrition affect the entire nation, especially women and children who are particularly vulnerable due to their unique physiology and socioeconomic position.
The prevalence of stunting in children under-5 remains high at 40 per cent where stunting is a chronic slowing of physical and cognitive growth, resulting from inadequate access and intake of nutritious food, poor health, and inadequate child and maternal care.
The effects of malnutrition can be seen in malnourished children whose potential is halted due to stunting. Additionally, malnutrition is also the underlying factor in the child and infant mortality rates.
Approximately, 70 out of every 1,000 infants fall victim before they celebrate their first birthday. The children are the future resource of this country, thus improving their nutrition is very important.
The benefits of addressing malnutrition are clear.Â For instance, 45 percent of all under-5 mortality would be avoided by ending malnutrition. This means preventing the deaths of 40 under-5â€™s per 1,000 live births, year-in year-out.
The economic returns are equally large, as an analysis in the just-released Global Nutrition Report shows; the benefit-cost ratio of scaling up nutrition interventions for Zambia is 17 to1.Â That is, for every Kwacha spent on nutrition programmes, the nation gets back 17.Â It is also estimated that an investment of US$48 million in direct nutrition interventions could increase GDP by US$123 million annually.
While the commitmentâ€™s being made by government in fighting malnutrition is noted, there is urgent need for increased financial commitment from the government and other stakeholders.
With all the advantages for putting money into nutrition, we hope that the changes made to the mining tax regime which will affect the national budget for 2015 will leave nutrition programmes untouched. And that nutrition programmes disbursement will remain a priority.
It is important to make a fundamental shift in the way we view malnutrition in order to find an effective nutrition funding mechanism. Malnutrition must be viewed as everyoneâ€™s business and responsibility. We must always thinkÂ that investing in nutrition isÂ as good as investing in the future of Zambia.
Zambia Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN)