Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Food Secure, but no nutritional security!

By Meluse Kapatamoyo

The Zambia Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) has called on government to reform existing agricultural plans to increase their impact on nutrition by encouraging diversity in food production, aimed at improving the nutritional outcome of the population through maximizing the positive impact of food and agricultural systems on nutrition.

CSO-SUN country coordinator, William Chilufya said the high levels of malnutrition in Zambia create an urgent call to ensure that investment in agriculture becomes a core part of the solution and preventive strategy by ensuring food is affordable and diverse.

He said that although Zambia has over the past years achieved food security with its staple cereal, achieving food and nutrition security as recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other international agencies, still remains a challenge to the government.

“A number of factors have resulted in a serious deterioration of food and nutritional security in recent years. In rural areas food insecurity is due to low productivity, limited access to agricultural services and resources, and over-emphasized production of hybrid maize at the expense of traditional crops. The excessive focus on incentives to produce Maize dissuades farmers from diversifying their cropping patterns. The lack of investment in the promotion of other sectors other than maize has resulted in limited crop diversification,” added Chilufya.   

Among other things, the Zambian government has committed itself to reducing chronic undernutrition by 50 percent in the next 10 years, resolve the human resource and financial gaps in the 5 key line Ministries which includes Agriculture and Livestock. 

Further, government will aim to increase nutrition budget lines by at least 20 percent annually for the next 10 years and also progressively encourage the involvement of the private sector to enable access to affordable and appropriate nutritious foods to mothers, children and other vulnerable groups.

“When we think of food production, ecosystem, health and human wellbeing, one crucial element is often not mentioned: nutrition. Nutrition is everyone’s business and no one’s responsibility, as the saying goes. But we know that one of the world’s greatest challenges is to secure adequate food that is healthy, safe and of high quality for all, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable manner,” said Chilufya.

Malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing Zambia today. Nearly one in every two children is stunted or small for their age. The country has one of the highest rates of stunting in children under five years old in the world. At 45.8 percent, higher than the 42 percent average rate for Africa, Zambia’s rate of child stunting remains higher than the vast majority of its neighbouring countries. PYM

Thursday, June 5, 2014

EMOC training; a must for health practioners

By Meluse Kapatamoyo
Midwives play a pivotal role in reducing maternal and child deaths. Unfortunately, inadequate numbers of these essential health workers remains a challenge in most health institutions around the country especially those in rural areas.

However, some health centres like the Kalabo District Hospital located 70 kilometers from Mongu in Western Province are one of the few institutions lucky enough to have midwives to help with deliveries.

Since graduating in 2012, 27-year-old Anifield Siandabile has delivered more than 200 women, helping fill the gap of midwives at the hospital.
Anifield Siandabile
In addition to training in nursing, in 2012, Anifield attended a three week course offered by UNFPA in Emergency Obstetrics and Neonatal Care (EMOC), a training he says has tremendously improved his trade and helped save the lives of pregnant women and their babies.

The training covers the child, mother and all the complications a woman may face when she is pregnant, during labour and six weeks after delivery, a time when complications are most common.

"On an individual level, compared to the knowledge I had before and after the training, I am on another level. It has helped me handle a lot of complicated cases that I would otherwise wait for the doctor to attend to, putting the life of the woman and her child in danger in situations when the doctor was unavailable. For example, in cases of prolonged labour, I am able to do various procedures without calling for a doctor,” explains Anifield.

Almost two years down the line, Anifield recommends that the training should not only be restricted to midwives but be extended to all nurses and health care providers as they too encounter emergency situations involving pregnant women.

“If the EMOC training is extended, I believe the country will see a further decrease in women dying from child birth because all health workers will be equipped and procedures to stop complications such as bleeding will easily be done.”

He said due to various interventions such as the introduction of a Health Adversity Committee, which involves traditional leaders in issues pertaining to maternal health and the presence of an ambulance donated by UNFPA, Kalabo district hospital had recorded an increase in women delivering at the institution.
According to the 2013 Kalabo District Medical Office Report on Communication for Development (C4D), although Kalabo district faces a challenge of low coverage’s when it comes to some Maternal and Child Health Indicators, institutional deliveries increased from 52 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2013.

"With the health adversity team in place, the message is getting to women that when they fall sick, they should rush to the rural health centre and if the nurse available is unable to handle to the problem, the hospital then sends an ambulance is sent to bring the patient to the hospital. But I still emphasise that all health workers be trained in EMOC because sometimes the hospital has challenges with fuel, “said Anifield. PYM