The Namibian (Windhoek)

21 November 2012

Namibia: Machel Boosts Malnutrition Fight

PRIME Minister Nahas Angula says the government is committed to accelerating its efforts and mobilising more resources in eradicating malnutrition in Namibia.

In June, Angula revealed at the launch of the National Agenda for Children 2012-2016 that almost 30% of Namibian children under the age of five are stunted, which is a sign of malnutrition during pregnancy and early childhood.

Global children's rights advocate and former Mozambican Graça Machel arrived in Namibia yesterday for a three-day visit to support the government and its partners in their efforts to improve child nutrition.

"We know that we cannot do it alone. This is why Mrs Machel's visit to Namibia is very critical to our work as government, and as the Namibia Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN) to uplift our strategic advocacy towards improved nutrition in our country" said Angula, who is also chairperson of NAFIN.

"I am keen to lend my support to accelerate Namibia's efforts, especially in improving the well-being of children through promoting good nutrition. NamibiaÂ's progress has been remarkable on economic growth and several social development fronts, but there are still disparities and high rates of chronic malnutrition (stunting) among children under five," said Machel.

Her visit, which is hosted by the government in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), will highlight the urgent investments needed to reduce the chronic malnutrition, poverty and inequalities in the country.

Namibia has made some progress towards fulfilling the rights of children and women and towards achieving a number of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but overall human development appears to lagging behind. Social development has not kept pace with economic development.

According to an assessment of the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey (2009/10), 34% of children live in poverty, which is lower than the 43% in 2003/04.

The assessment further shows that poverty is concentrated in rural areas, within certain language groups, large families and families with young children.

During her visit, Machel will meet with children, senior government leaders, parliamentarians, civil society organisations and development partners to better understand the situation of children and women in Namibia and lend support, in particular by contributing to advocacy and raising awareness of simple solutions available to reduce chronic malnutrition in Namibia.

In addition, she will launch the Nutrition Landscape Analysis Report, which analyses the nutrition situation in Namibia.

She will also call on Founding President Sam Nujoma on Thursday.

Machel has served on the boards of numerous international organisations, including the UN Foundation, the Forum of African Women Educationalists, the African Leadership Forum and the International Crisis Group.

The malnutrition report on Namibia states that the three most significant contributors to infant and child malnutrition in Namibia are inappropriate infant and child feeding practices, especially a lack of exclusive breastfeeding, poor hygiene, sanitation and caring practices, leading to illness and poor nutrition, as well as the health status of mothers.

The same report indicates that 19% of Namibia's total population is undernourished (2005 estimate).

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