By Alfred Chauwa
Graca Machel Trust founder Graca Machel has described malnutrition levels in the country in Malawi as alarming; and, has since called for more effort from civil society organisations (CSOs) and stakeholders.
Machel said in the capital Lilongwe during a high level dialogue on the state of malnutrition in Malawi organised by Civil Society Organisation Nutrition Alliance (CSONA).
According to studies, the current stunting levels in Malawi are said to have dropped from 47 to 37 per cent.
But Machel said this “is not enough,” adding there should be a close relationship between CSONA and cabinet–not just parliament–if pushing for policy implementation is to be hastened.
She said parliamentarians need to take nutrition messages to their constituents to deal with malnutrition.
“Use the church and community gatherings. They are effective platforms,” said Machel.
While in the country, Machel dated various stakeholders including the Minister of Agriculture to push for the Food and Nutrition Law, and urged members of parliament to be vigilant until it is passed.
During the meeting CSONA commended government over the newly launched MDGS III, which now has nutrition as a separate chapter in the document saying the move shows that the country is making progress in the ongoing malnutrition debate
Stakeholders also pushed for the launch of new nutrition policy which has remained idle for over 5 years since the previous policy expired.
One delegate gave an example on how underfunding is affecting activities to do with malnutrition.
“Some districts like Ntcheu; for example, the nutrition office receives only K1 million per year; and what can they do with that little money?” wondered the delegate.
CSONA programme manager, Bessie Ndovi, said there is need to advocate for behavior change in districts which are regarded as food baskets in Malawi but are still recording high numbers of malnutrition cases.
In the Malawi Demographic Household Survey of 2016, Malawi has reduced stunting cases by 10 percent against the 47 percent recorded in 2010.
But some districts like Dedza, Mchinji, Mangochi, Ntcheu and Neno are still recording over 40 percent cases of malnutrition.
Unfortunately, these are some of the districts regarded as food baskets in the country.
“Most rural people are poor and they mainly produce for sale and not for consumption. So, they sell their best produce in order to support their families.
“What we need to do is provide advocacy in these communities for them to be able to strike a balance between their incomes and their household needs so that they may be able to provide nutritious food to their under five children,” said Ndovi.
Ndovi noted that the Ministry of Agriculture is currently promoting agribusiness among farmers.
She; however, said this advocacy being called for does not mean stopping farmers from selling their produce, but rather teaching them on how best to budget for it.