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‘Childhood malnutrition still remains a problem in Gambia’

Oct 8, 2015, 10:39 AM | Article By: Cherno Omar Bobb

The Vice President and Minister responsible for Women’s Affairs, Isatou Njie-Saidy, has said despite some achievements over the years in food security, which led to the award to The Gambia by FAO for reducing undernourishment, childhood malnutrition still remains a problem in the country.

Mrs Njie-Saidy made this remark yesterday at the Sheraton Hotel, while delivering her opening statement on the Post-Congress workshop of the III World Congress of Public Health Nutrition.

She said the Demographic and Health Survey (2013) has revealed that stunting - being too short for age - affects 25 per cent of children under five in the country, while wasting - being too thin for height - affects 12 per cent of the under-five population.

Micronutrient deficiencies, especially iron deficiency anaemia, vitamin A deficiency and iodine deficiency disorders are also prevalent to a mild-moderate degree in the country, she said.

Dr Njie-Saidy also said that many third world countries, including The Gambia, are now faced with the double burden of malnutrition with the emergence of diet-related non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancers.

“This is compounded by the vagaries of climate change with its attendant negative consequences such as late onset of rains, erratic rainfall, early cessation of rainfall, floods and droughts that further exacerbate the already fragile household food security situation,” VP Njie-Saidy added.

The Gambia, she said, is a member of international organisations, including the ECOWAS Nutrition Forum under the West Africa Health Organisation and the Scaling Up of Nutrition (SUN) Movement established by the UN Secretary General to promote better coordination in the field of nutrition and to fight against malnutrition.

“SUN under the UN is a unique movement founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition,” she further stated.

She noted that their partnership with Nutrition Without Borders with the establishment of first CREN in Basse Mansanjang URR and recently in Soma LRR, the nutrition rehabilitation centres are really contributing to the reduction of the drop in infant mortality observed in the country.

The government developed the first-ever National Nutrition Policy 2000-2004, followed by a revised National Nutrition Policy 2010-2020 accompanied by a Costed Strategic and Business Plan, she stated.

The policy, she added, addresses the following key areas: Maternal Nutrition, Infants and Young Child Feeding, Micronutrient Deficiency, Diet-Related Non-Communicable Diseases, Food Security at the National, Community and Household Levels, Caring for the Socio-Economically Deprived and Nutritionally Vulnerable, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS, Human Nutrition Research, Nutrition Surveillance and Research Mobilisation.

The Gambia government under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh is committed, and would continue to be committed to ensuring food and nutrition security for the Gambian populace, as evidenced by the various declarations of President, including Vision 2020, Vision 2016 and now Vision 2025, with the emphasis on “growing what we eat” and “eat what we grow.”

She said she has the fervent belief that the conclusions, resolutions and recommendations from the congress, in the form of a ‘white paper’ for building nutrition resilience for the vulnerable households, would be useful to further help them in their fight against malnutrition.

The objective of the congress, Mrs Njie-Saidy went on, is to analyse the contribution of different international actors in supporting national governments in reducing food insecurity and child malnutrition, and analyse the functions and interactions of the various organisations in the field with a view to coming up with a ‘White Paper’ for building nutritional resilience.