Malnutrition is increasingly becoming widespread across the Southern African region and little attention is being given towards allocating more financial resources in the fight against malnutrition by many governments.
By Clive Shembe
Malnutrition is one of the most serious health problems affecting infants, children, and women of reproductive age in Zimbabwe.
Child malnutrition is widespread and is limiting the future success of millions of children and their nations in third world countries particularly Africa.
Globally under nutrition is estimated to cause 3.1 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths.
More so, stunted growth which results from malnutrition is a major health problem worldwide affecting approximately 178 million children under the age of five with Asia and Africa worst affected.
It is against this background that Rural Enterprise Trust of Zimbabwe (RETZ) a member of Zimbabwe Civil Society Organizations Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (ZCSOSUNA) in Collaboration with Sustainable Rural Community Development Organisation (SURCOD) a member of Civil Society Organizations National Alliance (CSONA- Malawi) are implementing a project which engages child parliamentarians in strengthening budget advocacy in order to achieve changes in relation to nutrition budgeting and planning in the 2018 Mashonaland central province local government budget (Zimbabwe) and in Nsanje and Chikwawa Districts (Malawi).
“This initiative has been proposed to award children the right to raise issues affecting them without their attention”, says Mr Cuthbert Mukora, the Head of Programmes for RETZ.
According to Kudakwashe Zombe, Coordinator for the ZCSOSUNA, “In both Zimbabwe and Malawi local budgets are prepared by local councils or rural districts and given their closeness to the communities, they provide a better opportunity to address and provide services to citizens of that community.”
RETZ which is leading the implementation of this initiative has hired a consultant from Malawi, Mr January Watchman Mvula, who is the Founder and Director at Sustainable Rural Community Development Organization.
Asked for comment, Mvula says, “It is very important to track nutrition commitments by our governments and this becomes a key advocacy priority to civil society organisations.”
Mvula called for the engagement of technocrats in the drafting of budgets since they are the once responsible for making budgets for the government.
“As CSOs we need to find our own way of approaching them (budget formulators and technocrats) because they will never come to us. When we are planning to influence a change in nutrition budget advocacy, we need to gather more information and then approach the decision makers with adequate information to say, this is what is in the policy and we cannot see it in the budget,” says Mvula.
This is but a pilot initiative which is expected to address the current under investment in nutrition in the both Zimbabwe and Malawi.
As a result of this project, child parliamentarians will be empowered to lobby together with civil organisations for increased financial resource allocation to nutrition.
“The partnership between the two CSO’s in Zimbabwe and Malawi is more likely to yield positive outcomes in advocating for increased financial resource allocation to nutrition,” says Zombe.
The initiative will also involve the engagement and participation of 15 child parliamentarians and 15 key decision makers and influencers of budgets.
According to Mukora, “the voice of child parliamentarians will draw attention of key decision makers and influencers to consider investing in nutrition as a way of fighting child malnutrition in all its forms in both countries”.
“Success of the project is more likely to see the adoption of this model in the other 7 rural provinces where malnutrition continues to deny children the right to their full potential in Zimbabwe and the 28 Districts in Malawi”, says Mukora.