GRACA Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, has called for the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Social Services and other ministries to help curb malnutrition.
Machel, who is in the country for a three-day visit, made the suggestion during a visit to the Katutura State Hospital yesterday morning.
“Malnutrition is not only a Ministry of Health problem, it is only a part of it. How far is the Ministry of Agriculture aware that malnutrition occurs if food is not available in quantity and quality? There is need to engage other ministries to take part of the responsibility. A study should be commissioned to establish how we can strengthen relations between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture,” she said.
Machel said the Ministry of Education was expected to come to the table by educating people on topics such as malnutrition, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS, as well as educating people diagnosed with such conditions on how to take care of themselves.
The malnutrition report states that the most significant contributors to infant and child malnutrition in Namibia are inappropriate child feeding practices – especially a lack of exclusive breastfeeding; poor hygiene and sanitation; and the health status of mothers.
The report indicates that 19% of Namibia’s total population is undernourished (2005 estimate).
Namibia has made some progress in fulfilling the rights of children and women and towards achieving a number of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but overall human development still appears to be declining, Machel said.
She said compared to other African countries, Namibia was doing relatively well in addressing the challenges faced by the people, but more could be done.
“One thing that’s impressive about Namibia is that all the challenges you are facing in the health fraternity are well identified. The only contradiction is that you have a high infant mortality and neo-natal mortality rate. We as teams need to think deep and say what can we do to do better and different to keep our women and children alive,” she said.
Health Minister Richard Kamwi, who accompanied Machel to the hospital, said malnutrition remained a public health problem, with 30% of children under the age of five reported to be stunted.
Reports suggest that the regions with the highest poverty and illiteracy rates also have the highest number of stunted children, he added.
Said Machel: “I think there’s really a problem of how do we strengthen our systems to complement each other. Strategically we should plan. Any radical social change will come about if you change the status of women and children.”