Chronic malnutrition in Mozambique has remained relatively unchanged for the past 15 years. Extremely high levels of chronic malnutrition (43 per cent) in Mozambique affect almost one in every two children under the age of 5. As well as contributing to infant deaths and poor child health, chronic malnutrition has a detrimental impact on school performance, household income, and perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of deprivation.
Although chronic malnutrition is a national challenge, it is more pronounced amongst children living in the northern provinces of Nampula, Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Zambézia, where the prevalence is double that of the southern province of Maputo, and amongst poor families whose risk of chronic malnutrition is double that of the wealthiest families.
The reasons for chronic malnutrition are many and complex. A major challenge is that 81 per cent of the population relies on agriculture for livelihood and over 95 per cent of food crops are produced under rain-fed conditions in a country that suffers frequent drought and floods.
Moreover, poor sanitation and hygiene practices lead to diarrhoea; besides being one of the leading causes of child death, repeated episodes of diarrhoea are also associated with stunting.
Another significant cause of stunting is the lack of appropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices. Less than half of children under 6 months have been exclusively breastfed and only 13 per cent of children aged 6–23 months receive the minimum recommended diet. This is coupled with low coverage of integrated behaviour change communication activities, with nutrition education messages reaching just 18 per cent of children in schools.