One in three children in Zimbabwe suffers from chronic malnutrition, according to a new study by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the country's public health authorities, who have urged action to help vulnerable women as well as children.
The Situational Analysis on the Status of Women and Children’s Rights concluded that malnutrition could contribute to more than 12,000 deaths a year in the country.
UNICEF says Zimbabwe's malnutrition rates are similar to those of other countries in the region but have climbed sharply since 1994 to reach nearly 40 percent.
The report found that the lack of access by many women and children to basic social services and protections has contributed to their vulnerability, which has also been increased by high levels of poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe.
Nutritionists say remedial nutrition programs must target children in their first three years or so. Without adequate nutrition a child can fail to thrive, affecting early development, encouraging disease and eventually reducing abilities in adulthood.
World Food Program HIV/AIDS adviser and nutritionist Francesca Elderman told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that regional organizations are putting together nutritional supplement packages to relieve the crisis.
Christian Care, a leading World Food Program distribution partner in Zimbabwe, says the suspension of supplementary feeding schemes could increase malnutrition.
Christian Care Director Forbes Matonga told reporter Patience Rusere that the program was abruptly halted two years ago, leaving children far more vulnerable in times of food shortages like those looming in several Zimbabwean provinces due to drought and rising costs which have put basic foodstuffs out of reach for many households.