Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
FIRST Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa yesterday launched a supplementary feeding scheme aimed at curbing malnutrition and stunting in children aged between 6 and 59 months in Matabeleland North province.
Amai Mnangagwa donated 15 tonnes of corn soya blend porridge to the province which tops in stunting rates standing at an average of 25 percent for children between 6 and 23 months.
Speaking at the launch of the programme at Ntabazinduna clinic, Amai Mnangagwa said she was motivated by the realisation that children in that age group are exposed to poor feeding practices leading to malnutrition, stunting and death.
“Matabeleland North is one of the provinces hard hit by high levels of malnutrition in the country especially among children below the age of five. The corn soya blend porridge I have brought is highly nutritious and it will enhance nutritional levels among our children in need of porridge. Here in Matabeleland North, only 17 out 100 aged six to 23 months are given food the recommended number of times per day according to their ages,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa said only one out of 10 of these children are given a variety of foods throughout the day which means by the age of six months they are poorly fed.
“This exposes them to the risk of developing malnutrition, getting sick more often and in extreme cases even dying,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa said stunting was very prevalent in the province as 25 out of a 100 children are too short for their age, which could be caused by poor nutrition.
“Poor feeding practices are one of the contributors to this situation. In this province we still have an uphill task when it comes to feeding our children other foods in addition to breast milk from six months onwards.
“In response to this, I as the First Lady have embarked on a high nutrient porridge programme which I am launching today here in this province for the first time. It will be replicated in all other provinces where malnutrition is high,” she said.
“I allocated 15 tonnes of ready to prepare corn soya blend porridge to Matabeleland North province, I am encouraging you to have this porridge prepared at clinics and have children eat there at the clinic as we have witnessed here at Ntabazinduna clinic”.
The First Lady said the involvement of communities in the fight against malnutrition in children needs to be strengthened so that everyone appreciates the importance of eliminating malnutrition.
“All family members need to be involved in ensuring that our children get safe and nutritious foods to assist in optimum growth and development. The Government and a number of non-Governmental organisations and Developmental partners have demonstrated their commitment towards eliminating the nutritional challenges in the country through initiating nationwide supplementary programmes,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa encouraged young mothers to continue breastfeeding their children.
“Indeed breastfeeding is the foundation of life and nutritious foods need to be fed to our children after the exclusive six months breastfeeding period. But I want to emphasise that breastfeeding is the one that starts everything and I’m encouraging all mothers who are still conceiving to continue breastfeeding,” she said.
The First Lady, who is Zimbabwe’s Health Ambassador, encouraged women to go for cervical cancer screening for early detection and treatment.
“The other issue that I want to talk about is cancer screening in our mothers. Cancer has ravaged the lives of our mothers. We’ve major types of cancer in women, breast cancer and cervical cancer and in men it’s mostly prostate cancer. But women are mostly affected because of those two common types apart from others.
“The PMD (Provincial Medical Director) has been telling me that we don’t have cancer screening here in Matabeleland North. I was touched emotionally by that because cancer sometimes does not have signs to show or let you know that it is there,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa said she would engage the Ministry of Health and Child Care and President Mnangagwa to ensure that cancer screening centres are set up in the province.
She also spoke against early child marriages and urged parents to let the girl child get education and pursue their career prospects before marrying them off.
Amai Mnangagwa toured the clinic where she was shown the various rooms and told of the challenges the hospital is facing.
She launched the programme by feeding some of the children with the corn soya blend porridge.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo thanked the First Lady for launching the programme in the province saying it was of paramount importance in the growth of children.
“Your Excellency, supplementary feeding is very critical in Matabeleland North province for it offers nutritional and medical support for moderately malnourished children between six and 59 months.
“As a province we are humbled by this donation and we are going to use it to scale up these interventions and make them get to more needy populations. This will go a long way in reducing cases of both acute and chronic malnutrition,” he said.
Cde Moyo said they were humbled to be among the beneficiaries of Amai Mnangagwa’s humanitarian programmes through the Angel of Hope Foundation
He highlighted that the province was faced with a number of challenges among them a shortage of critical staff in health institutions and lack of a provincial hospital. Cde Moyo said they were hoping that the construction of Lupane Provincial Hospital would commence in 2019 once funding is availed.
Chief Ndiweni also thanked the First Lady for coming to the area to launch the important programme which he supported.
He said the wishes of the local people have been to upgrade Ntabazinduna clinic built in the early 1960s.
The launch was attended by chiefs Ndiweni and Ndondo, Provincial Administrator Latiso Dlamini, Provincial Medical Director Dr Pugie Chimberengwa, government officials and members of the security forces among others.