Children and women’s rights advocate, Gra├ºa Machel, has welcomed commitments by Botswana government and partners to rid the country of the scourge of malnutrition.
Speaking at the 8th Seminar on Regional Integration held in Gaborone last week, Machel said mulnutrion level in Africa is growing worse and urgent action needs to be taken.
“In Southern Africa only Botswana is on track in trying to rid itself of malnutrition and HIV and AIDS epidemic,” she said.
Machel said Africa can make a difference, individually and collectively, by advocating and communicating the urgency to reduce malnutrition and stunting in households, communities, and the nation at large. Statistics show that maternal and malnutritioned children in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) contribute 36 percent of child deaths in Africa.
She said the high levels of poverty as well as child, infant and maternal mortality rates are a reflection of the struggle for social transformation. She stressed that malnutrition is not only a health problem, but an issue of human development as well.
“The rate of malnutrition in the region will prohibit Africa to advance to the human development levels witnessed in the developed world,” she said.
Machel said levels of under nutrition in Africa have a negative impact on childhood development and generate significant costs to national economies and are a key constraint to long-term economic development.
Machel said mindset change is essential for people to realize the importance of nutrition on children and mothers.
“Even if we might have good strategies, if the people’s mindset is not changed we cannot achieve anything,” she said.
Since the early 1990s, the global fight and mobilization against child under nutrition has been high on the global development agenda as shown by the 1992 World Declaration on Nutrition and the 2000 Millennium Declaration.
Estimates of child malnutrition indicate that a staggering 26 million children aged less than five years living in ESAR countries are stunted, 46 percent of stunting cases in Africa and 15 percent globally.
“The problem with African countries is we justify ourselves on why we cannot do it instead of looking for solutions to our problems,” said Machel. She added that African countries should join hands to address the children issues and rights.
“We do not care enough about our children’s nutrition; we concentrate more on children going to the clinics not realizing malnutrition and obesity are a result of poor nutrition,” said Machel.
She said Africa continues to remain behind if we don’t concentrate on development of our children and change our attitudes.
“The challenge remains that more needs to be done to ensure that nutrition interventions are scaled and sped up at regional level,” said Machel.