The Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS (DNHA) has called a Malawi multi-sectoral nutrition response forum to discuss Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) successes and challenges in an effort to improve the nutritional status of Malawians in general.
This comes at a critical point in the history of Malawi when food scarcity and in particular maize has hit all the regions of the country with high crop failure reported due to erratic rainfall experienced in the current season. Recently, the nutrition agenda was pushed as high as SGD 2, reflecting the weight and intensity the program deserves.
According to the Permanent Secretary of Nutrition, HIV and Aids Dr. Mary Shawa who opened the workshop on Thursday morning at Bingu International Conference Centre, “Development and in this case nutritional status change is all about contact.”
“We have done extremely well on advocating for and developing nutritional guidelines, policies and standards, but until we are able to move from theory to practice, we will continue to record the high stunting and malnutrition cases noted among the Malawian general population,” Dr. Shawa said.
We have to get into the household level, interact with the community and understand their mindset towards nutrition. Only then can we have a lasting transformational change on what our women are cooking, how they are cooking it and the feeding practices surrounding their beliefs and attitudes. She said.
Despite there being a gradual drop of stunting rates in the country from 47% in 2010 to 42% in 2014, we remain very hopeful that the health survey scheduled for late this year, will reflect our combined effort in the fight against stunting in Malawi. She was addressing nutrition stakeholders from all over the country representing government officials both at national and district level, development partners and donors.
Dr. Shawa emphasized sexual reproduction nutrition as an area of concern. She left the audience with cracking ribs of laughter when she jokingly developed a direct correlation between sexual misconduct after age 40 and dietary intake. Saying that, there are tried and tested recipes that can ensure men and women retain fidelity and keep their matrimonial beds holy regardless of their age!!!
Mr. Felix Pensulo, the director of nutrition in his speech lauded the efforts of Madam Shawa in ensuring that nutrition has risen from a non-recognized program in Malawi to its current status where not only does it have a whole independent department but also has a parliamentary committee on the same. She has also watched the team of nutritionists in the country grow from 8 to the current audience that met today at BICC from cross cultural backgrounds.
“I cannot stress enough the need for all stakeholders to work together to avoid duplication of effort and this can only be attained by respecting and working with the existing community structures.” Pensulo said.
He added that, there is need to move from rain-fed agriculture to modern farming methods and also aggressively work on mindset shift from traditional foods like nsima to diversified foodstuffs that do well in our local farms such as irish potatoes, sweet potatoes etc as a meal and not a snack.
The ultimate goal of this workshop which closes on Friday afternoon is to bring all nutrition stakeholders in Malawi together to share experience, learn best practices from each other and implement the same across the country thus improving the nutritional status of Malawians as a whole.