New data shows that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition among children under age five is above 5% in five southern African member states, including Namibia. Acute malnutrition is a form of under-nutrition caused by a decrease in food consumption and/or illness that results in sudden weight loss.
According to the 2020 Synthesis Report released yesterday, 7.1% of children in Namibia face acute malnutrition, while Botswana with 7.3%, Comoros (11.2%), Democratic Republic of Congo (8.1%) and Madagascar (6.4%) are also on the list.
This information is contained in a new 2020 Synthesis Report released yesterday by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the state of food and nutrition security and vulnerability.
While the effects of Covid-19 on malnutrition are not yet fully known, it is anticipated that with the effect of the coronavirus containment measures taken, acute malnutrition across the region could increase by 25% or more over the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.
The report assessed the 16 SADC member states and also revealed that acute malnutrition across southern Africa could affect 8.4 million children this year, exacerbated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of those 8.4 million, more than a quarter (2.3 million) will require life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
Over two-thirds of these children (72%) are found in six countries in the region (Angola, DRC, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Zambia).
There are also pockets of high wasting rates (above 10%) in the DRC (Greater Kasai, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika provinces), Mozambique (Cabo Delgado province), southern Angola (Cunene and Huila provinces) and southern Madagascar (Atsimo Andrefana and Amosy regions).
The report also highlights poor local food production in some countries (in particular Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) that indicate an early start to the lean season that will further compound the effects of Covid-19. The report urged member states to strengthen mechanisms to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, as close to 44.8 million people across southern Africa are food insecure – the lack of reliable access to affordable and nutritious food – a 10% increase on 2019 figures. Stunting rates are above 30% in nine out of 16 states, affecting an estimated 18.7 million children across the region. Furthermore, the new report revealed that close to 44.8 million people in urban and rural areas across 13 member states of southern Africa are food insecure.
Equally, it reveals the number of food-insecure people, lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food, has increased by almost 10% in 2020, compared with the data provided at the same time last year.
For Namibia, the report indicates, the country had a good harvest. However, current challenges include poor global and local economic performance; prolonged drought in parts of the country; continued effects of the Covid-19 lockdown (price increases, job losses, reduced access to food, reduced access to remittances).