MCBM enhances food and nutrition security and reduces stunting

By Byron Mutingwende


As a reflection of Government’s commitment to the implementation and fulfilment of set targets of the development mantra, stakeholders recently held a progress review and planning meeting for the multi-sectoral community based model (MCB) to food and nutrition security for stunting reduction.


In his remarks at the workshop held on 29 May 2018 in Harare, Justin Mupamhanga, the Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet responsible for monitoring and evaluation said malnutrition was a major impediment to economic growth and development.


“Malnutrition contributes to poverty by increasing mortality, increasing susceptibility to disease, impairing cognitive development and educational achievement and reducing work capacity and productivity in adulthood. Child under nutrition increases the risk of neonatal and child mortality and future maternal reproductive outcomes,” Mupamhanga said.


In 2012, World Health Organisation (WHO) member states endorsed a broader agenda to improve nutrition by 2025 (the Global Nutrition Target). Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 2.2 is even more aspirational, calling for an end to all forms of malnutrition by 2030. The Zimbabwe Constitution recognises the right to adequate food and nutrition coupled with access to basic health care and social services.


“The Government of Zimbabwe recognises this indisputable importance of food and nutrition security as illustrated in its key policy frameworks (the Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP) and development matra. These policies express a shared vision and commitments for accelerated action by the Government and its development partners, to improve national and household level food security, improve the quality of diets, ensure food safety, improve nutrition for adolescents, pregnant women and young children and reduce stunting,” Mupamhanga said.


Thus, the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Food and Nutrition Council (FNC), endorsed the implementation of the Multi-Sectoral Community Based Model to Food and Nutrition Security for Stunting Reduction with the broad objective of reducing food and nutrition insecurity.


According to George Kembo, the Director of the Food and Nutrition Council, the model specifically focuses on reducing stunting in children under 5 years through a multi-sectoral community based approach and extension systems strengthening.


He revealed that the model utilises the bottom-up approach as it is people-centred and places ownership and control of the development process within the community; hence communities cease to be mere beneficiaries of projects and programmes but they are enabled to contextualise and own their development priorities.


The Multi-Sectoral Community Based Model to Food and Nutrition Security for Stunting Reduction does not only embrace the ethos, values and principles of both the development mantra and the Food and Nutrition Security Policy but seeks to demonstrate their viability.


“The 2018 National Nutrition Survey results bring to fore the value of precision public health planning to provide spatially resolved data to guide efficient targeting of interventions to those populations with the greatest need. Its findings assist the country to evaluate its performance against development mantra; and the National Nutrition Strategy, which ends in 2018. Thus, the Survey results will enable quantification of inequalities and identification of success and failures of programmes and policies at local level,” Kembo .


According to the Survey regarding the Child Nutrition Status, insufficient growth during childhood is associated with poor health outcomes and an increased risk of death. At national level, Zimbabwe has demonstrated improvement for children under 5 years for Stunting (26%), Wasting (2.5%) and Underweight (8.8%), (the core components of child growth).


Although country-level estimates are useful for international comparisons and bench-marking, they mask disparities in nutrition problems at lower administrative levels at which most nutrition planning and implementation occur.


The 2018 National Nutrition Survey reveals a striking sub-national heterogeneity in levels of child malnutrition specifically on Stunting, which forms the basis of the MCBM programme.


Whilst the Survey results indicate reduction in the Stunting prevalence at national level from 33% in 2010 to 26% in 2018, it remains above the acceptable global threshold of 20%. Zimbabwe is ceased with the following districts whose stunting prevalence is classified as “HIGH category” according to the World Health Organisation classifications (30-39%): Mashonaland East: Murehwa (36.2%); Manicaland: Nyanga (33%), Chimanimani (35.3%), Makoni (31.9%), Mutasa (31.4%), Chipinge (30.5%); and Mutare (30.3%) Mashonaland West: Zvimba (30.7%), Mashonaland Central: Guruve (30.5%) and Mbire (30.4%).


“As the Office of the President and Cabinet, we recognise that no one sector is key to the success of the MCBM. Sector participation, coordination, organisation and intelligent direction to a definite end in a spirit of harmonious co-operation is the power for the successful implementation of the stunting reduction programme. My presence here as the Chair of the Working Party of Permanent Secretaries for Food and Nutrition Security is to provide the necessary leadership, share the vision and insist on you to assimilate and apply the major principles of working together.


“To the Provincial Administrators and Provincial Medical Directors, I am calling upon your requisite skills of leadership. I also urge you to be seized with ensuring full functionality of the decentralised Food and Nutrition Security Committees which are key structures through which the programme is being implemented,” Mupamhanga added.


Stakeholders were to continue working together consultatively through their respective structures. It was noted that learning the art of harmonious negotiations with others – free from the destructive effects of disagreement and friction which bring millions of people to misery, want and failure every year; was critical to the success of the programme.