Zambia, which has been very active and vocal within the global community on the high rates of hunger and under-nutrition, needs leadership to bring these issues higher up on domestic political and policy agendas, a new research says. The research findings released Wednesday by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) measure political commitment to tackling hunger and under-nutrition in 45 developing countries, including Zambia.
The “Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) 2013” comprises of high burden countries, showing levels of political commitment to tackle hunger and under-nutrition in terms of policies, laws and spending.
The Zambian government made an ambitious pledge at the Nutrition for Growth event in London last June to reduce chronic under-nutrition in the country by 50 percent in the next 10 years- specifically promising to increase funding to reach the World Bank’s suggested target of US$30 per child by increasing funding by at least 20 per cent annually for the next 10 years.
Currently, Zambia ranks 30th on the HANCI out of 45 countries, falling from 17th place in 2012 and showing significant decline in its commitment to reducing hunger and under-nutrition, according to the study.
One of the most detrimental changes over the last year is said to be the sharp drop in the coverage of the vitamin A supplementation from 92 per cent to 72 percent of children.
However, Zambia invests substantially in health services helping to allow a very high percentage (94 percent) of women to be attended at least once during pregnancy by a nurse, doctor or midwife.
These dramatic differences, the research says, highlight the need for coordination across sectors to achieve enhanced nutrition outcomes.
“Experts and key stakeholders in Zambia express the dire need for a nutrition champion to foster understanding and drive policy making that will tackle chronic under-nutrition.
“There is recognition that that their government is committed to addressing under-nutrition, yet the lack of a systematic and coordinated way of implementing the interventions is preventing progress,” the research says.
It notes that civil society groups in Zambia are calling for coordinated efforts to tackle under-nutrition and that moving the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) to the office of the vice president would provide it with greater traction and power to implement nutrition programmes to reach across sectors.
Additionally, while the government has made strong financial pledges to tackling under-nutrition, these are thus far insufficiently reflected in budget allocations.
“Now is a time for reflection in terms of what we have committed to do as a country and a call to focus on saving lives. In 2013 our Government and stakeholders worked together across sectors to develop concrete and viable plans to be implemented under the Scaling Up Nutrition Pool Fund – so we know that tackling under-nutrition is completely possible,” Zambia Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) said.
“We are calling for renewed commitment going forward in addressing these challenges. Specifically, we expect government to increase all nutrition budget lines by 20 percent as they promised. As the HANCI findings for Zambia show, simply making commitments is not enough, people want to see practical action,” CSO-SUN added.
Lead HANCI researcher at IDS Dolf te Lintelo said: “By showing what governments fail to do, HANCI evidence empowers citizens to hold their politicians to account. More so, by highlighting the important steps they can take to address these challenges, HANCI provides positive stimulus to reinforce such critical efforts on nutrition and hunger.”