33pc of children under 5 malnourished: Mugabe

HARARE - One in every three children under the age of five is chronically malnourished, while an estimated 25 percent of deaths of children under the age of five is a result of nutritional deficiencies in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has said.

He was speaking during the launch of the Food and Nutrition Security Policy and implementation which was launched in Harare last Thursday.

The policy will address the food and nutritional security situation in the country where over 60 percent of the population is said to be poor.

The new policy was unveiled amid reports that at least 1,6 million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid and 47 percent of local women are anaemic.

Farmer organisations say the harvest this year can raise only 1.2 million tonnes, for a country that need about 2.2 million tonnes.

The country has however, secured 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia but this is a far cry from the tonnage required to meet demand.

“The launch of the food and nutrition security policy and its implementation plan indicates government’s strategic shift in addressing an issue which is not only of national but global concern as well,” Mugabe said.

“It is a well-established fact that food and nutrition insecurity leads to a vicious cycle of malnutrition increased susceptibility to impaired metal and physical development.”

Vice President Joice Mujuru said the food and nutrition policy was in line with global strategies to fight world hunger such as the African Regional Nutritional strategy (ARNS), Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Number One aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

Health and Child Welfare deputy minister Douglas Mombeshora said it was important to address nutrition as it also helped the country in achieving MDGs Four, Five, and Six which deal with reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases respectively.

Commercial Farmers Union says the current situation is a direct result of  effects of droughts in the early 90’s and the land reform programme which saw at least 4 000 white commercial farmers lose their land to black farmers, contributing to food shortages.

Mugabe however, blames the food situation on sanctions imposed by Western countries.

“Cognisant of the critical importance of food and nutritional security in ensuring a healthy population and stability in the country, the government took a variety of measures aimed at promoting agriculture in order to increase food production output,” Mugabe said.

“These measures include agricultural subsidies, the establishment of schemes to assist farmers with inputs and development promotion of irrigation agriculture.

“Furthermore the implementation of the land reform programme has become the cornerstone of insuring food and nutrition security as the majority of the people have access to agricultural land,” Mugabe said. - Thelma Chikwanha, Features Editor

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