April 2013: Zambia’s SUN is rising
Vice President launches First 1,000 Most Critical Days
LUSAKA, Zambia – The Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr. Guy Scott, has launched the First 1,000 Most Critical Days programme that seeks to reduce the country’s high burden of chronic malnutrition among children below five years of age, currently at 45 per cent (DHS 2007).
The National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan for Zambia 2011-2015, which was launched earlier this month by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, aims to prioritize new multi-sector and synergistic efforts to strengthen and expand interventions for the First 1,000 Most Critical Days programme.
“Zambia is accelerating Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) programme because malnutrition is a major threat to the health and well-being of its children,” explained UNICEF Zambia Representative Dr. Iyorlumun J. Uhaa. “Short stature is only one feature of chronic malnutrition, which also contributes to mental and cognitive impairment that is often irreversible after the age of 2 years. This is why the SUN focuses on proven high impact nutrition interventions that help children survive and thrive during the first 1,000 days of life.”
Speaking during the launch in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, Vice-President Dr. Guy Scott called on all Government ministries to mainstream nutrition in their programmes. In a speech read on his behalf by Minister of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, Dr. Joseph Katema, MP, Dr. Scott noted that under-nutrition has severe consequences on the development of a child.
“Stunting affects health, physical, and cognitive development capacity as well as productivity in adulthood. Our children should be given an opportunity to develop to their full potential. We envisage to reduce stunting by 30 per cent by the year 2015,” Dr. Scott said. He emphasized that it was unacceptable for Zambia to have one of the highest stunting rates in the world. He also called for a multi-sectorial response to address under-nutrition in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the cooperating partners in Zambia, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) Zambia Acting Head of Office, Mr. Malcom Geere, said that cooperating partners will support the Government in implementing the SUN initiative by focusing on proven cost-effective high impact nutrition interventions. Zambia has been a SUN country since 2011.
“As cooperating partners, we are ready to increase and align resources to support this programme. We know that addressing under-nutrition will require scaling up of both direct nutrition interventions (such as appropriate complementary feeding and micronutrient supplementation) and indirect interventions such as diversifying the agriculture sector and supporting the most vulnerable families, so that they can have a more diverse and nutritious diet,” Mr. Geere said.
Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition Dr. David Nabarro highlighted the need to invest in nutrition for human and socio-economic development.
“Zambia’s productivity would increase by US$1.5 billion over the next 10 years if stunting continues to reduce. Investing in nutrition can lead to huge gains in Zambia’s economy,” said Dr. Nabarro in a video message.
In order to overcome the nutrition crisis in Zambia, civil society organisations (CSOs) also presented at the launch 10 key recommendations for reducing the country’s high chronic malnutrition among children below five years, which include political commitment, high level coordination, increased budget allocations, addressing human resource gaps, transparent funding mechanisms, and engaging CSOs in the fight against under-nutrition. The recommendations were presented by Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance National Coordinator William Chilufya.
Efforts to tackle under-nutrition in Zambia are supported by five Government ministries –Health; Agriculture and Livestock; Community Development, Mother and Child Health; Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education, and Local Government and Housing. The cooperating partners are DFID, Irish Aid, UNICEF, U.S. Agency for International Development, World Bank, and World Food Progamme, and CSOs.