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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

16,000 children could die from malnutrition related causes next year due to inadequate funding-CSO-SUN

Headlines 16,000 children could die from malnutrition related causes next year due to...

The Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance has described the 2022 National Budget as a death sentence to over 16 thousand children in the country who are projected to die in 2022 on account of inadequate funding by the government towards nutrition.

CSO-SUN Country Coordinator Mathews Mhuru is disappointed that the 2022 Budget is silent on the nutrition and that the yellow book is not indicating specific figures.

Mr. Mhuru says overdependence on donor support towards nutrition is not sustainable.

He notes with disappointment, reduced funding in agro ecology in the 2022 national budget which supports sustainable agricultural practices.

And Mr. Mhuru has wondered how the government will utilize funding from UK government, the German government and other cooperating partners towards improving the nutrition sector going by the alleged lack of commitment by the government.

He has called on the government to allocate more resources to food safety efforts.

Below is a full statement…..

Press Statement

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, 16th November 2021 – Like many other Organisations who have been fighting for justice for the various people they represent, 12th August 2021 presented a lot of hope for the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance regarding the fight against malnutrition in the Country.

On a number of occasions the President addressed the people, he never missed an opportunity to indicate how important it was for his government to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all Zambians as a bare minimum. During his first Press conference at the Community House, at his inauguration at the Heroes Stadium and during the Official opening of the first session of the 13th National Assembly, the President at all these occasions emphasized that no Zambian under his administration will go to bed hungry.

With these pronouncements coming from the highest office in the land, we were convinced that for the first time in a long time, we had an administration that not only cared about people having access to food but nutritious and safe food.

We were also convinced that for the first time we would see a shift in the allocation patterns in the national budget as a way of guaranteeing delivery on these pronouncements.

However, on 29th October 2021, Finance Minister Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane delivered the 2022 National Budget which unfortunately spoke otherwise about the commitment shown by the President regarding the provision of safe and nutritious food to the Zambian people. Like in the many previous budgets, there was no mention of the word “NUTRITION” in the budget speech, the first indication that there is limited prioritization of nutrition.

A further perusal of the budget speech and the yellow book indicated that key nutrition budget lines including school feeding program, growth monitoring, management of malnutrition among others are not mentioned at all making us wonder whether the current administration is committed to the fight against food and nutrition insecurity despite the President’s commitments.

Other than nutrition and key nutrition budget lines, the Minister of Finance indicated the commitment by the UPND Administration to boost irrigation farming as a way of shifting from rain fed agriculture and yet budget lines allocated for this important activity have been reduced by over 50 percent compared to the 2021 budget. We wonder how this will be achieved with reduced budget lines.

We have further noted with disappointment, reduced allocation in the agroecology in the 2022 national budget which supports sustainable agricultural practices and is in line with the commitments made at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York attended by President Hichilema this year.

The CSO-SUN is therefore disappointed with the failure by the new dawn government to place any importance to the fight against malnutrition as evidenced by the inadequate allocation to the nutrition sector in the 2022 national budget. This places the New Dawn administration in the same “CLIQUE” of politicians who have not seen the importance of reducing the alarming rates of malnutrition.

We are worried that the 2022 national budget is silent on matters related to food safety. This could mean that institutions mandated to enforce the Food Safety Act of 2019, which include the Ministries of Health and Local Government will be unable to protect the public as far as food safety is concerned. Since enactment, the PF government, and now the New Dawn government have failed to provide adequate resources to food safety, which has led to increased cases of unsafe food being sold to unsuspecting citizens. This has also led to increased cases of unethical practices and falsehood in the marketing of food products which is against the provisions of the food safety act.

With these findings of our budget analysis, we can safely say that the 2022 National budget is a death sentence to the over 16, 000 children who are projected to die in 2022 as a result of failure by the government to increase resource allocation to the nutrition sector.

We are meant to wonder how the New Dawn Government intends to utilize the money given by donors such as the UK Government, the German Government and other cooperating partners towards improving the nutrition status of Zambia when they have failed to place any importance to the nutrition sector in the national budget. We reiterate that donor dependence to fight malnutrition is unsustainable and therefore requires commitment to mobilise resources locally.

Recommendations

Since we have missed an opportunity to adequately fund the nutrition sector in the 2022 National Budget, the CSO-SUN therefore recommends the following to the government;

Prioritize the fight against malnutrition by increasing the funding allocation to both nutrition specific and sensitive programmes.

Ensure that the money given to the country by donors for this cause should be used for the intended purpose to attract more funding that will enable the country to meet its nutrition related needs.

Ensure that the New Dawn Government matches donor funds that have since been committed to food and nutrition.

Allocate more resources to food safety efforts to protect the public from unsafe and unhealthy foods which have devastating health effects.

The food packs given to vulnerable people by both the Ministry of Community Development and the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit should be nutrition sensitive to cover up for the dwindling budget to the nutrition sector.

Increase financing to disaster prevention rather that restructure the Farmer Input Support Programme to address the dietary needs of the citizens, and not the promotion of maize production.

Make detailed budgets for individual ministries accessible so that stakeholders can provide meaningful support to the government.

Issued by

Mathews Mhuru (Mr)
Country Coordinator
Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance

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