Namibia makes progress on child malnutrition

11 April 2019 | Health

The latest global estimates indicate that malnutrition among Namibian children under five years old has decreased since the year 2000.

The new Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates report by Unicef, the World Health Organisation and the World Bank analyses trends in malnutrition rates from 2000 to 2018.

But Namibia's statistics are patchy, with nothing since 2013.

The report analyses the indicators of stunting, wasting, severe wasting and overweight among children under five.

The report found insufficient progress towards reaching the World Health Assembly targets set for 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030.

According to the report global malnutrition rates remain alarming, stunting is declining too slowly and wasting and excess weight remain worrying among children under the age of five.

“Good nutrition allows children to survive, grow, develop, learn, play, participate and contribute, while malnutrition robs children of their futures and leaves young lives hanging in the balance,” says the report.

Statistics show that in Namibia the level of severe wasting has dropped from 3% in 2000 to 2.8% in 2013, while wasting decreased from 10% to 7.1% during the same period.

Wasting in children is the life-threatening result of poor nutrient intake or disease. Children suffering from wasting have weakened immunity, are susceptible to long-term developmental delays, and face an increased risk of death, particularly when wasting is severe. These children require urgent feeding, treatment and care to survive.

In 2018, over 49 million children under the age of five suffered from wasting and nearly 17 million from severe wasting.

Overweight is almost as unhealthy as underweight. The report states that the percentage of overweight children under five years old in Namibia grew from 3.3% in 2000 to 4% in 3013.

Globally there has been no progress in stemming the rate of child obesity in more than 15 years.

In southern Africa the prevalence of overweight children now stands at 13%, with about 900 000 children that are affected.

In 2018, almost half of all overweight children under five lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa, says the report.

Furthermore, it estimated that the percentage of underweight children in Namibia had decreased from 20.2% in 2002 to 13.2% in 2013.

The rate of stunting had decreased from 29.3% to 22.7% during the same period.

The report says global progress towards reducing stunting has been steady, but not fast enough to reach targets.

In Africa, although the prevalence of stunting declined from 38% to 30% from 2000 to 2018, the actual number of stunted children increased from 50.3 to 58.8 million in the same period.

“These new estimates suggest that we are still far from a world without malnutrition and that current efforts need to be scaled up if the World Health Assembly targets and the Sustainable Development Goals of halving the number of children stunted by 2030 are to be met,” the report states.

In 2018, more than half of all stunted children under five lived in Asia and more than one third lived in Africa.

ELLANIE SMIT

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