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Civil society call to action calls Zimbabwean government to take heed to challenges of mulnutrion threatening adolescent girls in school

May 18, 2021

By NEVSON MPOFU

Kudakwashe Zombe, National Coordinator for the Zimbabwe Civil Society Organizations Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (ZISCOSUNA)

Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (ZISCOSUNA) working together with UNICEF has come up with awareness programmes to address malnutrion which is adversly affecting adolescents girls aged 10-19 years still in school in the country.

The Civil Society Organisation has lifted its awareness sensetizition advocacy in Zimbabwe owing attention to the severe challenges faced by young girls between the ages of 10 -19 years as mentioned above

Adressing media in Harare recently Kudakwashe Zombe national Co-ordinator of ZISCOSUNA said their ogarnisation is carrying out awareness campains around the country to adress issues of malnutrition. Zombe stressed out a point that they applaud the government of Zimbabwe for crafting a neccessary policy and legal framework for addressing food and nutrition challenges in the country, for example the food and nutrition security policy for Zimbabwe

“We applaud the government of Zimbabwe for crafting the neccessary policy and legal framework for adressing the food and nutrition security challenges in the country , for example the Food and Nutrition Security Policy for Zimbabwe.We also applaud the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for developing the School Health Policy of 2018, with the intention of providing comprehensive health services for schools””

He furtheron stresses a point that the policy provides a broad frame of reference to guide the implementation of a number of health related interventions that refer to the welfare of learners in the school system. This includes nutrition,water sanitation and hygeine.There is also need to look at the needs of learners with disability, mental health, sexual and reproductive concerns and the care and support provisions including guidance and counselling services for all learners.

“The rise of malnutriton among adolescence across nations is a concern of which we need to pay attention and come to the rescue of young girls especially those in schools”

“We carried out a survey and came up with a report which specifically look at young girls still in school because they lose a lot of food nutrients during mensuration period.This is the main reason why we looked at young girls espehcially in school.We also look at young boys of the same age

.Our report noted that the diets of adolescents in low and middle countries are generally nutritionally poor.Among school adolescents ,only-34 % attested to consuming fruits ,21% eat vegetables less than once a day ,and 42% drink carbonated soft drinks at least once a day”.

According to World Health Organisation it is recommended that it is healthy enough to consume at least 400g of fruits and vegetables each day to reap good health and nutrition benefits.However it has become a very big challenge for many developing countries of the world to meet food security issues. Evidence on ground is in 2017 3.9 million deaths worldwide were attributable to less eating of fruits and vegetables. Insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables is estimated to cause around 14% of death from gastro-intestinal cancer worldwide, about 11% of those due to schemic heart disease and about 9% of those caused by stroke.

Giving a presentation as well Cathbet Mukora notes that 46% of adolescents world wide are living on poor diet meaning to say they feed on less that 400g of food with less calcium , iron and folate. This has led to the outbreak of cancer diseases

“The icrease in malnutrion is severely affecting children’s growth and development ,better mental health and cancer diseases. However it is recommended that consuming enough of fruits and vegetables builds up on childrens growth and development, better mental health, a healthy heart ,lower cancer risk and lower obesity risk”.

“This is a cause of concern.” As advocates for nutrition, we would like to remind policy makers and key decision makers in the government that, everyone in the country has the right to adequate safe, and nutricious food as articulated in the constitution of Zimbabwe.Despite this right,malnutrition in all its forms remain a public health problem in Zimbabwe and needs urgent attention if we are to eliminate it within our lifetime and we cannot afford to delay”

A further call to action is to support the consumption of diversified nutritional diets among adolescents in schools.

“We cannot continue to deny adolescents the right to realise their full potential because of preventable causes , we need to ensure that adolescents have access to safe diets during time they spend at schools.The time is for nutrition now! “

The organisation calls for the government of Zimbabwe to make commitment in supporting nutricious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets in schools. This would ensure optimal growth and development of adolescents. The govt must facilitate full implementantion of the Zimbabwe School Health policy of 2018 and its related policies and strategies which is critical in the preventing and reducing consumption of non nutricious foods at schools among adolescents.

The government has been challenged to upscale the NATIONAL SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME to secondary schools across Zimbabwe and in addition the programme should be sensitive to nutrition  and to avoid providing learners with mono diets ,this requires a commitment to increase budgetary allocations towards the national school feeding programme.

The government has been tasked to place markerting restrictioms on the sale of unhealthy foods to children in schools.There must also be promotion of school environments with healthy lifestyles such as physical activities among adolescents learners.

The Civil Society Organisation ZISCOSUNA got support from UNICEF.It is working in patnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Ministry of Health and Childcare.The implimented youth advocacy project is targeting 6 districts that is Harare, Makoni, Chivhu, Chirumhanzi, Bindura and Insiza. The major goal is to empower adolescent learners and also to improve their health as they are encouraged to consume fruits and vegetables and promote healthy lifestyles

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