The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014 results indicate that children in the drought prone Matabeleland South province are more likely to be underweight and wasted than children in other provinces.
“The results show that the percentage of underweight children was higher in rural compared to urban areas.Children in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Masvingo and Manicaland provinces were more likely to be overweight,” reads the MICS report.
Low birth weight, defined as less than 2,5kg carries a range of grave risks for children.Babies who were undernourished in the womb face a greatly increased risk of dying during their early days, months and years while those who survive may have impaired immune function ans also risk a lower IQ and cognitive disabilities, affecting their performance in school and their job opportunities.
Nompilo Moyo, a village health worker in Manama village said most rural women are struggling to feed themselves during pregnancy because of starvation.
“Low birth weight stems primarily from the mother’s poor health and nutrition, the hunger situation in the province over the years has led to mothers giving birth to underweight children.The government should at least put in place a feeding programme for pregnant mothers especially in rural areas to solve the problem,” said Moyo.
“In some instances even those on antiretroviral therapy have been forced to abandon their drugs due to hunger, hence the high cases of underweight births.Others have had to abandon “