GOAL has launched a lifesaving nutrition programme in Zimbabwe which will reach almost a quarter of a million children under the age of five years over the next 12 months. The programme is funded by ECHO and will run in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC).
The Nutrition Emergency Response for Early Detection and Treatment (NERET) project, which will be rolled out in Masvingo Rural, Bikita, Gutu, Buhera, Mutare Rural and Chipinge Districts, will support 243, 000 children diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) with nutrition interventions.
The project will also provide food assistance to households with confirmed cases of malnourished children. In addition, GOAL will strengthen the technical skills of health workers at health facilities, while improving the physical resources to allow for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of acute malnutrition cases.
The project will implement the Family MUAC (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) approach that is centred on empowering the whole family to take measurements and keep track of their children’s nutritional status. This approach is even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage families to conduct measurements at household level.
The start of this ECHO-funded project comes in light of a worsening humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe due to hyperinflation, drought, crop failure, Cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview (2019), at least 5.1 million Zimbabweans are in need of food assistance, while 1.6 million people are facing life threatening needs. The ZIMVAC report of June 2019 revealed that Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence was 3.6% nationally. As such, most vulnerable households have become more food insecure and the situation could further escalate, leaving more families, especially children under five, malnourished and increasing chances of stunting. With acute malnutrition as one of the leading causes of under-five mortality, prevention and early case identification are essential measures when food insecurity increases.
Gabriella Prandini, GOAL Zimbabwe Country Director, highlighted that the project will make a contribution towards ensuring that vulnerable households with children under five will be supported with screening and treated for malnutrition while providing food rations to enable them to have minimum acceptable diets.
“We are working towards integrating nutrition and food security for children under five in this current era of COVID-19. We will support the Ministry of Health and Child Care in strengthening early case identification of acute malnutrition and administer life-saving treatment for children,” she said.
The rates of malnutrition are worsening as most vulnerable households do not have access to adequate food following three consecutive drought years. This is impacting negatively on children under five who may face risks of being malnourished. As such, the project will compliment efforts that families make to provide food for children by providing super cereal plus for malnourished children. Early identification will ensure that children who are moderately malnourished will not deteriorate to becoming severely malnourished,” she said.
GOAL has been implementing nutrition emergency interventions and has supported the integration of CMAM with the Ministry of Health and Child Care services since 2009. In 2019, through the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), GOAL provided active screening for malnutrition to communities affected by Cyclone Idai in Chipinge and Mutare.