Severe food poverty affects 580,000 Zim children

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In this story:

  • 1 in 4 children experiencing severe child food poverty
  • Govt, UNICEF & other partners implementing the Multi-Sectoral Food and Nutrition Security Strategy
  • Long-term impacts of COVID-19 on child diet quality apparent

FOOD insecurity among Zimbabwean children could further deteriorate in 2024 with the El Nino-induced drought that has caused above-average temperatures and below average rainfall as about 580,000  young children are living in severe food poverty, a new global UNICEF report has revealed.

Globally, around, 181 million children under 5 years of age – one in four children – are experiencing severe child food poverty, making them up to 50 per cent more likely to experience wasting, a life-threatening form of malnutrition, according to the report.

“It is urgent to address child food poverty today to avoid more children being pushed into a life-threatening status of severe malnutrition,” said Dr Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe.

What and how children are fed in early childhood determines their survival and shapes their growth, development and learning for the rest of their lives. But hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean children – especially the youngest aged between six months and two years, the poorest and the most marginalized – do not have access to the minimum nutritious foods they need during the time in their lives when good nutrition matters most for their growth and development.

According to the global UNICEF report children who consume two or less of the eight defined food groups are considered to be in severe child food poverty. Children who consume three or four food groups per day are experiencing moderate food poverty, while children who are fed five or more of the eight defined food groups are not considered to be in food poverty.

In Zimbabwe, less than one in ten children consume a daily diet
containing five or more food groups, with the frequency required
to ensure optimal growth and development.

In-line with Zimbabwe’s Nutrition Narrative, the government with UNICEF and other partners, is implementing activities, under the Multi-Sectoral Food and Nutrition Security Strategy, to improve children’s diet diversity and prevent all forms of malnutrition. These activities focus on making nutrient-dense foods more available and accessible at household level through a network of community-based support programmes to caregivers known as Care Groups, with links to relevant services in health, water, sanitation and hygiene, social protection, and agriculture.

Dr Alipui: “To scale up community-based nutrition activities, additional support is needed from government, development and humanitarian partners, national and international civil society and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.”

Community-based nutrition programmes addressing child food poverty among the children of Zimbabwe are essential to deliver nutritious, safe and affordable foods and essential nutrition services for children throughout the country.

In Zimbabwe, the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on child diet quality are still being seen, with the addition of multiple health outbreaks, including cholera, the impacts of the climate crisis, and rising food prices. These factors are all driving child food poverty in Zimbabwe.

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