Seven political parties that attended a recent workshop organised by the Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) have pledged to fight malnutrition in Zambia.
Officials from the Patriotic Front and the United Party for National Development, National Restoration Party, Forum for Democracy and Development, Alliance for Democracy and Development, Movement for Multiparty Democracy including the Zambia Direct Democracy Movement committed to nutrition development if they form government after the August elections.
CSO-SUN organised the workshop to explore how political parties can effectively contribute to improving nutrition in Zambia.
Speaking during the workshop held in Chilanga with various political parties, CSO-SUN Head of Advocacy and Communications Eneya Phiri said issues around nutrition are of vital concern that need to be addressed holistically.
In urging political parties to commit to nutrition, Mr Phiri insisted that political parties need to know that their ascension to power is directly affected by the promises they make to Zambians.
“We believe every political party is a government in waiting. So we decided to have this meeting so that we could know what different political party manifestos say about nutrition.
During the meeting we have agreed that malnutrition is a huge problem in Zambia that something needs to be addressed,” Mr. Phiri said.
Mr Phiri urged Zambians to listen carefully to what the potential leaders were saying about nutrition.
“When that time to vote comes, you are going to make a decision based on the commitments made by different political parties and should they form government, we are going to use the same commitments that we are going to vote them on to hold them accountable,” said Mr. Phiri.
He said CSO-SUN working with the different political parties during the workshop looked at issues of malnutrition and what could be done to address it.
“We learnt for example that stunting in children under the age of five is at 40 percent which we all agreed is unacceptable. We are talking about children who will not be able to reach their full potential in life and whose education and ultimately contribution to society is going to be hindered,” he said.
“And in the end we are looking at an economy which is going to be weak because we have a devaluation of the human capital.”
Mr. Phiri said CSO-SUN and the various political parties also agreed that issues of nutrition required a collective response and that tangible commitments to nutrition were needed.
And Alliance for Democracy and Development Secretary General Mwangala Mbangweta said malnutrition could only be tackled through education.
“We are going to prioritize education because we know that an educated society is teachable and so we are going to provide free and compulsory education to all especially to the girl child,” said Mrs. Mbangweta.
The UPND on the other hand committed to approach nutrition from a multi-sectoral perspective and to mainstream nutrition while NAREP made a sound commitment to adequately funding nutrition programmes and the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC).
At the same event, the MMD pledged to increase nutrition action through the decentralization implementation plan.
Meanwhile, PF Secretariat Director John Phiri said his ruling party had learnt a lot from the workshop saying the event had come at an opportune time when the PF was revising the party manifesto and its constitution.
“We want to assure you that as PF, as we draft our new constitution, we will incorporate nutrition issues. As a party in government, we want to assure everybody that the PF has been doing a lot but with what we have learnt today, we will definitely build on it and do more,” said Mr. Phiri.