Diarrhoea has been identified as one of the leading causes of death amongst children in Namibia, which is closely linked to the lack of nutrition. The World Health Organisation states that diarrhoea is an important cause of malnutrition.
This is because nutrient requirements are increased during diarrhoea, as during other infectious diseases, whereas nutrient intake and absorption
are usually decreased. Each episode of diarrhoea can cause weight loss and growth faltering.
The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) stated that the disease was the number one cause for the mortality of children under five in 2020 (11.9%) and 2021 (11.3%).
However, statistician general Alex Shimuafeni noted that the leading cause of death for
children aged five to 14 years in 2020 and 2021 decreased from 13.2% to 11.1%, respectively.
“The infant mortality rate increased from 49 deaths per
1 000 live births in 2018 to 54 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2021. More than half of the infant deaths were males across the years. Oshana recorded the highest number of infant deaths in 2020 while in 2021, the highest was in Oshana and Omaheke,” he said at the launch of
the mortality and causes of death report this week.
Having recorded 45 deaths of children under the age of five from malnutrition-related complications during the first half of this year, the Omaheke region has been battling the effects of malnutrition after
one death and 11 new cases were reported between July and August.
“Under-five mortality rates have slightly increased from 62 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2018 to 65 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2021,” Shimuafeni said.
Overall, most deaths were due to non-communicable diseases.
“Deaths due to communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions were consistently declining from 29.8% in 2018 to 17.7% in 2020. However, an increase
was observed between 2020 and 2021 from 17.7% to 24.4% respectively,” he continued.
Nutrition and Food Security Alliance of Namibia (NFSAN) director Ben Schernick told Vital Signs one thing that was visible
in the report on malnutrition in general, is that over-nutrition seems to be on the increase because the diabetes numbers
went up, and other cardiovascular diseases are huge contributors, including hypertension-related diseases, which are also going
“But it was shocking to me that over 80-year-olds and the under one-year-old on under-fives, I saw higher numbers. We know that it is sometimes also challenging for
the Ministry of Health to properly record children who are dying of under-nutrition because even if you die of let’s say diarrhoea or other causes, all of that is related to bad nutrition or undernutrition,” he said.
Schernick noted that there is a need for the alliance to study the findings by the NSA a bit more in detail.
“So, from our side, what we have developed with our partners is a nutrition for health approach which applies to communities, but can also be used to raise awareness
and knowledge around what a balanced diet looks like,” he added.
The World Food Programme (WFP), through its human capital development approach, advocates for adequate nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women as a protective mechanism against any complications.
In 2020, the WFP stated that approximately 23% of children in Namibia are stunted in their growth because they do not eat enough nutritious food. This, they said, can have a dangerous effect on the development of children, and can even influence their behaviours as they grow older.