New Era (Windhoek)

16 January 2013

Namibia: Malnutrition a Major Concern in Kavango

Rundu — Despite constant efforts by government to reduce malnutrition in the country, the Kavango Region continues to battle the condition with 73 deaths and 468 hospital admissions of children under 12 years reported between January 2011 and June 2012.

Speaking to New Era on Monday, general practitioner at the Rundu State Hospital, Dr Raphael Mlauzi, said people suffer from the condition as a result of poverty. About 90 percent of the 541 child admissions at the hospital between the period in question account for children under two years, said Mlauzi

"You will see that the statistics indicate that the condition develops mostly soon after the mother stops breastfeeding. The reason why the illness is so high among children is because parents can only afford to feed them 'oshikundu', which is made up mainly of starch, therefore the child lacks the other necessary nutrients," he said.

People simply do not have money to eat a healthy diet, said Mlauzi, adding that it is a social problem which has compelled the hospital staff to strictly monitor patients once they are discharged.

In cases where the illness is chronic, the hospital can only advise the patient to have balanced meals.

He is however confident that efforts by government to initiate programmes such as the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition will help to remedy the situation. Overall statistics by the Kavango Regional Council released recently indicate that 3 775 cases of malnutrition were recorded between January 2011 and September 2012, while 1 734 of those were children under the age of five.

Meanwhile, Governor Maurus Nekaro is convinced financial illiteracy is responsible for the malnutrition predicament amongst the elderly population, after statistics indicated that 1 380 cases of malnutrition were found among people aged 18 and above.

"Irresponsibility is the problem because people just squander all their money on alcohol without buying food. Once they reach old age they have nothing left, they just depend on government grants," said the governor. "People go to drinking places early in the morning, something which I think is having a negative effect on the region," said Nekaro.

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