Under Nutrition Kills 2.6M Under Five Children Annually

By Amie Sanneh

The Programme Manager, Food and Nutrition Security, EU Delegation, The Gambia, Darrell Sexstone, has said that 2.6 million children under the age of five die every year as a result of under nutrition.

Sexstone made the remark at the opening of a two day workshop on food fortification held at a hotel in Senegambia on May 23rd 2017. The meeting is organized by the European Union in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

He added that globally, around 165 million or a quarter of the world’s children, suffer from stunting. Over 90% of these children live in Africa and Asia, he said.

He noted that the effects of poor nutrition represents one of the most serious and preventable tragedies of their time. He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers poor nutrition as the single most important threat to the world’s health.

“In many developing countries it is an underlying cause of at least one third of all child deaths and 20% of maternal mortalities every year”. He added that millions of children do survive, but those that survive grow up stunted with a low height for their age and impaired mental development.

He stressed that under nutrition traps individuals and society in the various circle of poverty. “Children growing up in poor households are more likely to suffer from under nutrition which undermines their ability to learn and make them more prone to disease and illness,” he said. This, he noted hinders a child’s capacity to secure a job as an adult and to live a productive life thus perpetuating generational poverty. Under nutrition is especially severe among poor rural populations and those suffering from discrimination, he said.

Sexstone Stated that nutrition is included as a major component under the recently signed Envelope B 11.5 MEUR ‘Post Crisis Response to food and nutrition insecurity’ project currently being implemented by FAO/WFP and UNICEF.

Another recently started project, the 3 MEUR BReST (Building Resilience through Social Transfers) is an innovative programme promoting cash transfers to pregnant and lactating mothers during the first 1,000 days, he said. BReST is being implemented by UNICEF.

An allocation of 4.1 MEUR to WFP to provide School Meals is intended to promote access to food. There will be a call for proposal later this year for NGOs to submit complimentary actions in nutrition.

In addition to traditional development assistance, he said the EU continues to address acute food and nutrition insecurity through humanitarian assistance. In the recent past the EU’s Humanitarian Office has provided support by way of cash, transfers and supplementary feeding for pregnant and lactating mothers, he said.

The Executive Director of the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), Pa Modou Cheyassin Phall said nutrition is a major public problem not only in the third world countries but also in the developed.

He said in the Gambia micronutrient deficiency is not something that they are tracking very well. Phall said the last survey conducted in 1999 shows that almost nine percent of the children were suffering from vitamin A deficiency and almost 76 percent of women were anaemic. Anaemia he said affects productivity. “Most of the children who lack behind in their schooling are being caused by some of these micro nutrients deficiencies,” he said.

He said the productivity of farmers who are anaemic can also be affected as they will not be able to deliver on the farm as expected. He said this project which is about micro nutrients will help reduce the high level of micro nutrients in the country. He said the only way that they can gain a maximum impact on this project is through their collective efforts and then knowing what their responsibilities are and play it to the best of their ability. No single institution can do it alone, he added.

Participants at the meeting are expected to talk about micro nutrient deficiency which has a major consequence on the health and productivity of the people especially young children and pregnant mothers.