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More than half children under five are stunted
Tuesday 7 September 2004
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ZAMBIA: More than half children under five are stunted

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


The number of severely malnourished children has dropped

JOHANNESBURG, 24 May (PLUSNEWS) - More than half of Zambia’s children aged under five are stunted –one of the highest levels in Africa, according to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

"The levels of child malnutrition in Zambia had showed improvement throughout the 1990s, but since 1999 have deteriorated quite significantly," UNICEF’s nutrition and health officer, Claudia Hudspeth, told PlusNews on Monday.

Hudspeth, who recently conducted a survey on children in Southern Africa, attributed the increase in the levels of child malnutrition to a combination of drought and the impact of HIV/ AIDS.

"The levels of stunting in Zambia are some of the highest in Africa, with 51.9 percent of children less than 5 years of age stunted," she said. "The highest levels of stunting were recorded in the provinces of Luapula, where 63 percent of children under five are stunted; Eastern province, 64 percent; and the Southern province, where the largest humanitarian operation was focused throughout the drought, the figure was 44 percent."

Greater poverty in the underdeveloped northern provinces was the reason for higher levels of poor nutrition than in the south, explained Rory Nefdt of UNICEF’s Zambia office.

Children in northern Zambia did not have access to adequate supplies of maize, which has more nutritional value than cassava, their staple diet, while districts in southern Zambia had a good road network, giving them access to the maize available in the bigger markets, Nefdt added.

"The levels of malnutrition vary significantly across Zambia. However, it appears that areas that were better off - the more urbanised areas - showed a greater degree of deterioration in child malnutrition," said Hudspeth.

"This pattern may be due to the fact that these areas have become more vulnerable because of HIV/AIDS. About 10 to 15 percent of children in Zambia less than five years of age may have HIV/AIDS, and may be failing to thrive and grow as a result," she commented.

AIDS orphans, "households with very high dependencies due to chronic sickness, death of productive adults, migrant and single parent households" were some of the new vulnerable groups that had emerged in recent years, according to Hudspeth.

While stunting, which is brought about by poor nutrition, had increased, wasting caused by inadequate food supply had dropped. Hudspeth attributed this partly to "the protective effect of food aid - Zambia has shown very little change in levels of wasting (acute malnutrition) over the past 10 years".

UNICEF has been providing therapeutic rehabilitation to malnourished children in Zambia since 1992, with food assistance from the World Food Programme.

"The number of severely malnourished children has dropped considerably," said Nefdt, pointing out that it was the quality of nourishment children required that needed to be addressed.


Recent ZAMBIA Reports
Activists concerned over drug shortages in ARV roll-out,  12/Aug/04
Home-based care projects flourishing,  3/Jun/04
Traditional healers called in to treat HIV/AIDS,  19/May/04
New approach to HIV/AIDS treatment needed,  11/May/04
Pregnant adolescent refugees go back to school,  22/Apr/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making A difference for Children Affected by AIDS
Children and AIDS International Non-Government Organisation Network (CAINN)

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:

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  • Inter Press Service (IPS)
  • Health Systems Trust
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  • GTZ/Afronets

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