Mariental — THE number of children under the age of five who died of hunger has dropped significantly in the Hardap Region.
The Mariental State Hospital's chief medical officer, Dr Jean-Paul Tshitende, says the number of children who have died of malnutrition in the region dropped from 14 in 2011 to five in 2012.
Tshitende said 93 children were admitted for malnourishment in 2011 compared to the 61 in 2012.
Tshitende made the announcement at a meeting Hardap Governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa had convened with regional government department heads and local authority administrators to be briefed on the region's development progress.
Tshitende said babies born to HIV-infected mothers mainly contributed to the high levels of malnourishment in the past, but with effective programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the region is doing quite well to keep the malnutrition death rate low.
"In the past, most of the time HIV was the underlying cause," said Tshitende.
Saying that this is no longer the case, Tshitende said currently 95% of babies born to HIV-infected mothers are HIV-free due to the PMCT programmes.
"This is a huge achievement. Behind the malnutrition was the face of HIV," Tshitende remarked.
Expressing concern over the high prevalence of HIV among pregnant women, Tshitende said it had increased from nine percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2012.
"Refrain from unprotected sex or use a condom. Go for regular HIV testing, early medical treatment prevents deaths," said Tshitende.
Tshitende added that social factors such as unemployment, poverty and children raised by single mothers are some of the major causes of malnutrition.