The Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance and its partners have recommended that government should increase coverage of the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme (PWAS) to address challenges of food insecurity in Zambia.
The CSO-SUN, SPOON and the Catholic Medical Mission Board have also recommended that the Women Empowerment programmes and Social protection programmes should respond to shock like food insecurity and disasters to ensure that social protection programmes are well funded.
Making a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services on the Social protection programmes including Public Welfare Assistance Scheme and Women Empowerment, the Organisations noted that poor Funding to the Social protection programmes has in the last three years seen a decrease in financing which has affected implementation.
“Despite recommendations by Community Welfare Assistance Committees (CWACS) to enroll vulnerable people identified, district officers have a limit to how many people they can admit to the programme”, says Mathews Mhuru, the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance Country Coordinator.
Mr Mhuru said the programme has failed to provide guidance to partners on what support certain communities need and that to some extent, livelihood and empowerment programmes have been politicised.
He said good nutrition is the fundamental part of ensuring the needs and rights of vulnerable children are met adding that poor nutrition in early childhood can cause irreversible delays, and approximately 45% of all child deaths are related to malnutrition.
And Ms Esther Ngulube, a representative of the Catholic Medical Mission Board says vulnerable children, including children with disabilities and those without family care, are particularly at risk for child malnutrition.
Ms Ngulube said it is estimated that children with disabilities are three times as likely to be malnourished as children without disabilities, and twice as likely to die from malnutrition during childhood.
“Approximately 80% of children with disabilities have feeding difficulties, such as difficultly chewing or swallowing, which can be overcome with individual feeding support. Children without family care often lose access to the nutrition they need and to the interactions with caretakers that are critical for children’s brains to develop”, she said.
Ms Ngulube recommended that the Committee should improve availability of data on nutritional status of vulnerable children by ensuring that children with disabilities and children without family care are included in national surveillance mechanisms, and that disaggregated data is available on nutrition outcomes for these populations.
She told the Committee that this must include nutrition support for vulnerable children in relevant strategies and developing specific targets for numbers of children with disabilities and children without family care receiving nutritional support with appropriate monitoring and reporting to assess progress.
The Non Governmental Organisations, Spoon and the Catholic Medical Mission Board are partners on the safety feeding and nutrition practices project in Zambia. SPOON is a member of the CSO-SUN.