This shocking information is contained in a dossier “A Situational Analysis on the Status of Women’s and Children’s Rights in Zimbabwe, 2005-2010”, made public recently. The situation has been exacerbated by the food crisis – mainly caused by the chaotic land grabs – and compounded by the ensuing gross human rights abuse against a background of the disastrous drought in 2002. The findings of the report were said to be “startling” by the researchers.
“Today, one in every three Zimbabwean children suffers from chronic malnutrition. Globally, maternal and child undernutrition contributes to 35% of all child deaths . “Applying these estimates to Zimbabwe, undernutrition is likely to contribute to more than 12000 child deaths each year,” the report states.
The alarming figures indicate a forecast of poor development in the near future as children are the leaders of tomorrow.
“The undernourished children who survive, suffer lifelong consequences: they are more susceptible to disease, and are likely to have poorer educational outcomes, poorer birth outcomes and reduced economic activity into adulthood. “Undernourished young children, who gain weight rapidly later in childhood and into adolescence, are at an increased risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease later in life,” the report says.
When Zimbabwe’s economy was faring well in the early 80s to the 90s, child mortality was the lowest in the region.
“While rates of chronic malnutrition in Zimbabwe are moderate relative to other sub-Saharan African countries, they have been rising at alarming rates over the past 15 years. “Rates of chronic malnutrition have increased by nearly 40% since 1994 and, at present trends, will reach critical levels within the next decade.
Even more concerning are the large disparities in rates of malnutrition between districts, wealth groups, boys and girls, and children residing in rural and urban areas . Rates of chronic malnutrition range from a low of 21% in Beitbridge district to a high of 47% in the Mutare district. Furthermore, rates of chronic malnutrition are considerably higher among the poorest of the population (40%) than the wealthiest (25%).
Malnutrition in Zimbabwe knows no class. “Wealth and malnutrition in Zimbabwe appear to have an inverse relationship; the poorer the population, the higher the malnutrition.
“It is interesting to note, however, that even the wealthiest have unacceptably high rates of malnutrition,” the report adds.
The report warned that unless the food and health situation is taken as a top priority, things could get out of hand.
“A sudden deterioration in the food security or health situation in Zimbabwe could trigger a rapid deterioration in rates of acute malnutrition.”