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580 000 children in Zimbabwe facing severe child food poverty


Harare, (New Ziana) -At least 580 000 children under the age of five in Zimbabwe are experiencing severe child food poverty, a figure that could rise as a result of the El Nino-induced drought that is gripping the country, a United Nations agency has said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), originally called the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund in full, defines child food poverty as the inability of children to access and consume a nutritious and diverse diet in early childhood.

In a statement on Friday, the UN agency said around 181 million children worldwide under 5 years of age, 1 in every 4 were experiencing severe child food poverty, making them up to 50 percent more likely to experience wasting, a life-threatening form of malnutrition.

Among these, 580 000 are Zimbabwean children, a figure that could rise with the current El Nino induced drought.

It said what and how children are fed in early childhood determines their survival and shapes their growth, development and learning for the rest of their lives.

“But hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean children, especially the youngest aged between six months and two years, the poorest and the most marginalized do not have access to the minimum nutritious foods they need during the time in their lives when good nutrition matters most for their growth and development,” it said.

UNICEF said in Zimbabwe, the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on child diet quality were still being seen, with the addition of multiple health outbreaks, including cholera, the impacts of the climate crisis, and rising food prices, the factors driving child food poverty in the country.

“Food insecurity among Zimbabwean children could further deteriorate in 2024 with the El Nino-induced drought that has caused above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall, with a ‘historic’ mid-season dry spell over the 2023/2024 agricultural season,” it said.

The UN agency said it was imperative to address child food poverty as a matter of urgency to prevent more children from being pushed into a life-threatening status of severe malnutrition.

According to the new global UNICEF report, children who consume two or less of the eight defined food groups are considered to be in severe child food poverty.

Four out of five children in this situation are fed only breastmilk/milk and/or a starchy staple, such as rice, maize or wheat. Less than 10 percent of these children are fed fruits and vegetables, and less than 5 percent are fed nutrient-dense foods such as eggs, fish, poultry or meat.

Children who consume three or four food groups per day are experiencing moderate food poverty, while children who are fed five or more of the eight defined food groups are not considered to be in food poverty.

New Ziana

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