9 November 2018

Southern Africa: SADC Called to Gang Up On Childhood Nutrition

Windhoek — SADC member states have been urged to adopt the call to action for renewed commitment on early childhood nutrition as a regional commitment to accelerate nutrition actions.

The member states directed the SADC Secretariat to explore opportunities of involving regional and national organisations based on their comparative advantage to support implementation of high impact nutrition interventions.

Minister of Health and Social Services Bernard Haufiku shared the outcome of the week-long joint meeting of SADC Ministers of Health and Ministers responsible for HIV/AIDS. Twelve countries were represented at the meeting.

According to the demographic and health survey of 2013 (most recent), only 21 percent of young children are breastfed up to the recommended age of two years.

Further, the report reveals that 24 percent of children under the age of five in Namibia are stunted (short for their age), 13 percent of children are underweight. Six percent are wasted (thin for their height).

Furthermore, data from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) reveals that one in three children under five years in Africa were stunted in 2011.

Interventions should focus on the critical 1000 days window including pregnancy and before a child turns two years and include improving women's nutrition before, during and after pregnancy.

Infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria are important determinants of stunting, according to a Unicef report titled 'Child malnutrition in Africa'.

"Ministers recommended to council to approve the establishment of a nutrition position on the organisational structure, to ensure sustained implementation of nutrition priorities in the region by 2020," said Dr Bernard Haufiku.

Haufiku spoke to the media at a post meeting press conference where he revealed that 20 decisions were endorsed from the meeting that took place this week.

SADC member states were urged to operationalise the Addis Ababa Immunisation declaration to eliminate measles and other preventable diseases by 2020.

This he said should be done through prioritising expanded immunisation programmes in the region through strategic partnerships to support implementation of immunisation activities at district and community levels.

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