19 January 2013

Tanzania: Malnutrition Cases On the Increase

UNDERNOURISHMENT is a serious challenge that seems to have hit hard a larger section of the community and prompting the government to make interventions on expeditious provision of health and nutrition services.

Among immediate measures taken to address the situation includes the decision by the government to embark on a comprehensive National Nutrition Strategic Plan designed to reach out to communities.

Official records, for example, show that the National Food Fortification Alliance (NFFA) has made careful assessment of the magnitude of the problem putting the cost of micronutrient deficiencies at more than 700bn/- per annum or approximately 2.6 per cent of GDP.

Other sources have revealed that chronic malnutrition has caused stunting to 2.4 million children in the last ten years and nutrition education is badly needed for the people to stay healthy. During exclusive interview with the Deputy Director of Public Health Education in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ms Helen Semu, it was established that the intervention included coordination from the Office of the President down to the local authorities to make sure that proper feeding is inculcated in people's minds.

The initial stage towards implementation of the strategy includes hiring of nutrition specialists trained to serve communities through participatory education more efficiently. "Previously there was serious shortage of nutritionists. More have been hired to reach communities under the newly introduced service delivery decentralization system.

Messages will be conveyed through media outlets including radio, TV and newspapers," Ms Helen explained. She added; "Preliminary investigations have revealed a myriad of challenges. For example, children in a family were seeing to be malnourished but the mother is obese (overweight). Nutritionists will share information with members of the community on proper diet.

Without giving details, the deputy director admitted a sharp increase of number of diseases related to nutritional deficiencies. These include heart diseases, diabetes, and malnutrition, among others. Zena Mrisho who is also a medical practitioner said in all her meals garlic must be included.

"After learning that garlic is a 'miracle drug' I have decided to take it regularly. Some of health complications I previously experienced such as body fatigue, persistent headaches, irregular heartbeats, chest pains and dizziness disappeared. I feel good and healthier now," Zena confessed.

A renowned nutritionist, Dr Hesperance Odhiambo from Tumaini Hospital in Dar es Salaam, said modern researches have confirmed the efficacy of garlic which can prevent or reverse high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and cancer. She said garlic lowers cholesterol level, boosts the immune system, lessens body fatigue, resists colds and flu, among others.

"These are the diseases afflicting millions of people in the country and beyond. The simple garlic can make a big difference. People need to be informed about this and other widely available remedies," Dr Odhiambo explained. Tanzania is the third worst affected country in Africa in respect to malnutrition.

Tanzania belongs to the 10 worst affected countries across the globe and ranks 10th in its contribution to all chronically undernourished children in the world. Within Africa, Tanzania is the third worst affected country; only Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo do worse.

It was revealed that lack of vitamin 'A' for example compromises the immune system and increases a child's susceptibility to infectious diseases and was a major cause of child deaths in the country in the recent past.

In recognition of the problem, the government starting in 2000, launched campaigns to provide vitamin 'A' supplements and de-worming tablets to all children aged six months to five years resulting into a significant impact on improving children's immunity and survival.

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