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  • on 02.11.2015
  • at 01:42 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

How Climate Change Threatens Zambia’s Already Fragile Nutrition Record 0

Pemba (Zambia) – It is slightly after 10 o’clock in the morning and 48-year-old Felix Muchimba of Siamuleya village in Pemba district has just finished having breakfast – a traditional drink called Chibwantu, made of maize meal and grit.

“I harvested slightly over 200kgs (4 by 50kg bags) of maize and this could finish in two months if we maintain the normal three meals per day,” said Muchimba, who has been living with HIV since 2007, told IPS.However, Muchimba and his six member family will be having their next and last meal of the day at four o’clock. Because of food scarcity, the family now takes two instead of three meals per day.

Muchimba says, “My status as a bread winner has not changed despite my living with HIV. When disaster strikes such as drought leading to crop failure, we cope with the changed situation and have reduced our meals to two per day,” he said.

Muchimba’s family is among the over 133,000 households countrywide that have suffered crop failure due to drought and now require relief food assistance, according to the country’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) 2015 Food Security Map.

While Muchimba’s immediate concern is undoubtedly food availability, a more subtle problem in the context of sustainable development goals (SDGs) numbers 1 and 2 (ending poverty and ending hunger) is undernourishment. Muchimba and his 28-month-old child (born HIV negative) both need nutritious food continuously.

“Children who are undernourished suffer from a number of short and long term consequences. It is the long term effects that we are seriously worried of; poor development of the brain, leading to poor performance in school and even reduced productivity later in life,” Eustina Besa of the National Food and Nutrition Commission told IPS.

A typical meal in Zambia is a monotonous intake of key staples: Nshima (a hard porridge made of maize or cassava starch), usually eaten with steamed vegetables (rape or pumpkin leaves) and, not so often, chicken or meat.

According to HarvestPlus, a research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) on maize – a staple food for more than 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America – lacks essential micronutrients such as vitamin A. This common deficiency in the diets of poor malnourished populations leads to retarded growth, increased risk of disease and reproductive disorders.

With this background, Muchimba’s family is likely part of the larger world population still grappling with “silent hunger” – malnourishment that is serious enough to affect personal growth and development.

According to the World Food Programme’s 2015 statistics, some 795 million people worldwidee world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life with sub-Saharan Africa recording the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four on the continent is said to be undernourished.

Zeroing in on Zambia, the picture is not different. According to the 2014 UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) State of the Food Insecurity in the World report, the country was ranked second to the world’s worst case scenario in terms of undernourishment, rated at 48.3 per cent of the country’s population, better only than Haiti with 51.8 per cent.

However, with several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign launched in 2012, the 2015 Zambia Demographic Health survey has shown some improvement.

Continue reading on IPS News

by Friday Phiri

Photo Credits Friday Phiri/IPS

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