Health and Nutrition

Child Health and Nutrition



©UNICEFNamibia/2008/John Isaac

To keep children healthy and well nourished.

Pregnant and lactating mothers, children under 5

Malnutrition is widespread in Namibia with one in four children under five years short for their age and underweight. Malnutrition in children under 6 months, a rare occurrence in a breastfeeding population, is also on the increase largely because of HIV/AIDS and inappropriate infant feeding practices. Less than 25% of children under 5 years are exclusively breastfed and mixed feeding with complementary foods introduced as early as one month is common.

The low sanitation coverage (31%), less than 60% of caregivers washing hands at critical times coupled with perennial shocks (floods, rising food prices– 40% between 2007 and 2009) portends a worsening nutrition security situation for children and women.

Led by the Prime Minister and with UNICEF support, government has responded by launching a National Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN) – a multisectoral public/private partnership for improving the nutrition situation of vulnerable groups including children. A National Nutrition Strategic Plan (NSP) has been developed. Critical activities outlined in this proposal and drawn from the NSP have been identified as having the greatest potential of reducing malnutrition in the medium to short term.

Data sources: HIV Sentinel Surveillance 2008; MOHSS Estimates and Projections of the Impact of HIV/AIDS in Namibia 2009/10, Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006/7

By the end of 2018, stunting prevalence among children under 5 reduced nationally from current 29% to less than 20% and the proportion of the population practising open defecation will be reduced by 25%.

Indicator: National sanitation budget as percent of GDP. 

Indicator: International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes adopted and enforced. 

Indicator: Percent of under-fives stunted. 

Indicator: Percent of population practicing open defecation.

UNICEF in Action 

Malnutrition continues to blight the future of children in Namibia. One in four children under 5 is too short for their age and poor children are three times more likely to be stunted than children from the wealthiest households. This level of chronic malnutrition shows how inequitable life opportunities are for many children in the country. Stunted growth is strongly associated with poor living conditions, including household food insecurity, low parental education, poor breastfeeding practices and inappropriate foods for young children, lack of access to quality health care and an unsanitary living environment.

As malnutrition is not only an issue of health, solutions need collaboration in the areas of nutrition, food security, health and sanitation and hygiene. In response, UNICEF is working with partners to mount a coordinated multi-sectoral response to reduce stunting in children under 5 to less than 20 per cent by 2018.





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