During the period 1992– 2015, there was a tangible reduction in the number of underweight children and in those suffering from chronic malnourishment. However, despite these gains, concerns persist regarding the high rates of stunting among children and the stark disparities in nutritional status. Progress on various indicators has been either stagnant or has slipped.
In 2015, more than 2.7 million Tanzanian children under 5 years of age were estimated to be stunted and more than 600,000 were suffering from acute malnutrition, of which 100,000 were severe cases.
There are huge variations in the nutritional status of children under 5 years of age. Ten regions account for 58 per cent of all stunted children and five regions account for half of the children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Tanzania. All three forms of undernutrition are higher among children from the poorest quintile than the richest quintile and higher among boys than girls.
Given the importance of nutrition in the overall physical and cognitive development of children, there is a need to focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to prevent the negative effects of malnutrition from becoming irreversible. This requires a multi-pronged approach to address risk factors ranging from inadequate food and illness to poor access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.
High rates of anaemia and low body mass index among adolescent girls and pregnant women are also causes of concern. Investing in nutrition is essential for Tanzania to progress. It is estimated that the country will lose US$20 billion by 2025 if the nutrition situation does not improve. In contrast, by investing in nutrition and improving the population's nutritional status, the country could gain up to US$4.7 billion by 2025.