SIXTEEN percent of Namibian women between the ages of 15 and 49 are either severely, moderately or mildly thin, while 28% are either overweight or obese.
This is revealed in the Nutrition Landscape Analysis Report, launched in Windhoek this week by the global child rights advocate Graca Machel.
The report says this state of affairs calls for a concerted effort to put nutrition at the centre of development.
“There is a need for creating a budget line for nutrition and allocation of more resources by the government and development partners. Design and implement a systematic advocacy and targeted information, education and communication strategy for nutrition, to promote and support a healthy lifestyle and environment,” it recommends.
Although Namibia has a strong political commitment and a rich set of policies and guidelines for nutrition, their translation to concrete actions is hampered by a lack of trained staff and money, and by weak coordination at various levels of the system.
Until 2010, there was only one trained nutrition professional working for the Namibian government.
Currently, there is no stand-alone nutrition course at the tertiary institutions in Namibia, with nutrition integrated only as a component of the nursing degree and the Masters in Public Health at the University of Namibia in the School of Nursing and Public Health.
“Sixty-five percent of health workers interviewed reported that they did not have adequate time to carry out nutrition duties. The financial resources and allocation to nutrition by the government sectors and partners is non-existent or is inadequate. Capacity to act is also limited due to constraints in financial resources for implementing nutrition activities at regional and district levels,” states the report.
Regional health administrators are overloaded, and as a result nutrition activities are compromised. “There are no nutritionists at district level to support evidence based nutrition interventions in the community.”
It further recommends the revision of the Nutrition and Food Security Policy to guide government and its partners in delivering evidence-based and cost-effective food and nutrition interventions.
To address the challenges related to malnutrition in Namibia, Prime Minister Nahas Angula has established the Namibia Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN), a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder partnership aimed at ensuring that concerted, coordinated and collaborative efforts by the government and partners lead to a reduction and eventual elimination of malnutrition and improved food security in Namibia.