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Campaign against childhood malnutrition in Tanzania

As part of its global hunger and food security initiative, the US government Wednesday launched a three-week micro-nutrient powder campaign in three regions of Tanzania to help combat childhood malnutrition.

According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) here, the campaign will include special event days that feature demonstrations on how to add vital micro-nutrients to porridge and other foods. 

“Samples will be given to children and sachets will be sold. Kiosks will sell blended flour and fortified maize flour and explain how these work with nutrients for children while improving everyone’s health,” a USAID official explained at the launch of the campaign that is targeting eight districts in three regions of mainland Tanzania and the islands of Zanzibar.

PANA reports that Tanzania’s children suffer from various forms of malnutrition and, according to nutrition experts, over half the children are anaemic; one third suffers from Vitamin A deficiency; and 42 percent of children in the country experience stunted growth.

While anaemia reduces energy in children, Vitamin A deficiency often leads to irreversible blindness and increases susceptibility to disease.  Stunted growth limits physical and mental development.

Children’s rates of stunted growth are especially high in the campaign’s target regions of Dodoma, Manyara, Morogoro, and Zanzibar. 

According to USAID findings, many of the children do not lack food, but instead lack foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals, resulting in “hidden hunger”.

The Government of Tanzania, in partnership with USAID, is promoting solutions to this problem, including ways to fortify locally-available staple foods, edible oils, and cooked foods for young children.

The campaign, dubbed ‘The Health of Your Child is Your Responsibility’, will educate mothers, caregivers, health workers, local government officials, and the public on the importance of adding micro-nutrient powder to foods given to children aged six months to five years.

Every packet of nutrients contains a blend of 10 types of vitamins and five minerals, including Vitamin A, folic acid, iodine, iron and zinc -- vitamins and minerals that are recommended by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF and have been adopted by Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The nutrients work as supplement to, and not a substitute for, breastfeeding and a balanced diet.

Sold at kiosks and by village health workers in the target regions, each sachet is prices at 100 Tanzania shillings (US$0.06)

Pana 20/02/2014