How famine affects children in Dodoma


Dr Vincent Assey, Assistant Director of Nutrition Services in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare
 As food shortage ravages Dodoma Region, children are the most hit as at least four percent of patients admitted in hospitals are children with malnutrition complications, it has been revealed.
 
Acting Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr Mzee Nassoro, told The Guardian this week that malnutrition was one of the challenges for healthy growth in children in the region.
 
He said the situation was attributable to the serious shortage of food that has struck almost all the districts of the district.
 
Some districts in the region have reported food shortage following poor harvest in the last season, forcing people to resort to eating wild fruits and vegetables.
 
Speaking with this paper during an interview in his office, the RMO said Dodoma remained the leading region in micronutrient deficiency in the country.
 
He said the rate of deficiency was quite alarming, calling on parents in the region to use fortified foods in order to reverse the trend. 
“Most people are unaware of the benefits of fortified flour, which is the easiest way to control malnutrition,” he said.
 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the stunting prevalence in the region was 56 percent, with an estimated number of stunted children under five years old at 30 per cent. Maternal under malnutrition and underweight rates were also extremely high, at 24.5 per cent and 26.8 per cent, respectively.
 
The acting RMO made the remarks a few weeks after the first annual Dodoma Fortification Advocacy Meeting hosted by SANKU, a company focused on the fortification of grain flour, such as wheat and maize, using small-scale technology.
 
Speaking during the meeting on behalf of the Dodoma Regional Commissioner (RC), Chiku Gallawa, Regional Nutrition Officer Mary Bonaventure noted that poor nutrition was one of the biggest obstacles to Tanzania’s development.
She said according to the Tanzania Demographic Health Survey (TDHS) 2012, micronutrient deficiency was high among women of child-bearing age, with 40 per cent anaemic, 36 per cent iodine deficient, 30 per cent iron deficient and 37 per cent vitamin A deficient.
 
“Chronic under-nutrition affects 45 per cent of all rural children in Tanzania, and it is highly prevalent in the region of Dodoma,” she said.
The regional nutrition expert added that wasting indicated a recent and severe process that had led to significant weight loss, usually as a consequence of acute starvation or severe disease. 
 
According to her, wasting, which represented recent failure to receive adequate nutrition, was over 5.2 per cent in the region.
 
However, Dr Vincent Assey, Assistant Director of Nutrition Services in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, revealed that Tanzania lost Sh 800 billion in revenue every year owing to malnutrition cases.
 
“Globally, over two billion people are affected by malnutrition and food fortification is the most effective way to prevent malnutrition” he said.
He said despite the government efforts to promote the importance of nutrition advocacy, still exists a major issue of lack of consumer demand for fortified maize flour at district level, making it a challenge for millers to comply with the government’s mandate of fortification.
 
“Not only are consumers unaware of the benefits of fortified flour, but there also seem to be limited knowledge of the government mandate among its officials at the regional and district levels.” he added.
 
Celestine Mgobe from Tanzania Food Nutrition Centre observed that 2.7 per cent of the national GDP was lost annually through malnutrition, with Dodoma and Lindi leading other regions in malnutrition rates
-The Guardian
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