Misconceptions hamper fight against under-nutrition in Malawi, experts say

Written by  Blair Albert Mhone

Experts say misconceptions hamper fight against under-nutrition in Malawi

Misconceptions on some of Government’s interventions are blamed for hampering efforts to combat under-nutrition in the country, experts say.

A mother mixes 'Ndisakanizeni' for her child. Pix by Blair Albert Mhone A mother mixes 'Ndisakanizeni' for her child. Pix by Blair Albert Mhone

Government introduced a Micro Nutrient powder called mix me powder (Ndisakanizeni)  in 2017 as one of its efforts to reduce malnutrition and stunted growth of children between the ages of 6 to 24 months.

According to the chief nutritionist in the Ministry of Health, Frank Msiska, recent studies have shown that only about 8 percent of children aged between 6 and 24 months are fed properly.

He said this problem is not only in rural area but nation wide regardless of social and economic status.

“From 6 to 24 month is a period that is characterized by rapid growth and mental development and at this point is when our children need a lot of nutrition,” said Msiska.

But in some areas where Ndisakanizeni  is being distributed, some households have decided not to use it because of misconceptions about the powder.

“The main challenge the program is facing is misconceptions concerning the powder when we first introduced it” added Msiska.

Nkhata-Bay district is one of the districts that are benefitting from the mix me powder and according to officials from the district hospital, children under the program have tremendously improved.

Gabriel Chipeta is environmental health officer at Nkhata-bay district hospital.

“Currently, cases of severe malnutrition have decreased in the district since we started implementing the program” said Chipeta.

As one of the leading organizations in supporting the welfare of children in the country, Unicef is engaging the media to assist in dispelling the misconceptions.

Rebecca Phwitiko, communication officer at Unicef, says: “We need the media to assist in disseminating information on the importance of the powder to the nutrition of children” said Phwitiko.

One of the powder’s promoters in Nkhata Bay from Group Village Headman Jumbo’s area, Maggie Kamanga, said through her cluster leaders, she is able to sensitize households that are holding out on the nutrition and minerals found in the powder.

“We sensitize households that the powder is fortified with 15 different vitamins and salts that are vital for the growth of children” said Kamanga.

One of the beneficiaries of the mix powder in Nkhata Bay is Alice Kamanga who says her 23 months old son’s health has improved since he joined the program.

“Although some people tell me bad things about this powder, my son is a testimony of how good the powder is to children that are undernourished,” said Alice Kamanga.

The Micronutrient Powder program is currently being implemented in 14 districts and will soon be extended to other districts in phases.

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