Phale Suggests a Separate Nutrition Vote

Phale during the open day Phale during the open day - pic by Luka Beston

Deputy Minister of Health Enock Phale believes having a separate allocation  for nutrition interventions in the national budget will go a long way in eradicating malnutrition levels in the country, currently at around 40 percent.

Phale said apart from lacking the Food Act, the country is still struggling to deal with the effects of malnutrition in children and conditions affecting the general population such as obesity and over-weight due to under-funding.

Phale however expressed concern that 10 districts have just utilised almost half of the €70 million Afikepo Programme funding when communities are lacking the same to scale up nutrition interventions, such as water systems for irrigation.

"It is a point of concern. What the EU did with all other implementing partners had  put up a condition of draw-drown approach. So it's like there is money there, but you can only take if you submit a plan. Other districts have fast-tracked this and have done quite good.

"This is not good, there are resources but if you come here at Chinkwende you see what these women were complaining? A simple thing that if we had packaged our interventions well would have addressed that," Phale said.

Meanwhile, deputy director in the department of nutrition and HIV/AIDS Blessings Muwalo, has attributed low funding uptake to Covid-19 restrictions that slowed the programme implementation.

"We started the initial activities late, a year also passed. Within the implementation time, there came Covid-19 in December 2020 which had its measures that deterred implementation. We were not supposed to have meetings," he justified.

Nevertheless, Muwalo said the programme has helped the country to meet the targets in the Malawi Nutrition Policy by among others reducing stunting and waisting in the communities.

He added that as a measure to utilise greater part of the funding, they will make upfront payments of school fees for some students the programme was assisting in the universities.

One of the Afikepo promoters from Chinkwende, in the area of Inkosi Bvumbwe Mary Masamba, says the project has improved their nutrition and social-economically, but lamented a water challenge in the area for irrigation and livestock farming. 

The five year project which is phasing out  was being financed by European Union through Food and Agriculture Organisation-FAO and UNICEF and has improved nutrition for 72, 000 households in Thyolo according to the District's Director of Planning and Development Morson Magombo.

Meanwhile, the minister is also lobbying for the tabling of the Food Bill in the November sitting of Parliament which he thinks would help the country to strictly regulate food uptake contributing to health conditions such as Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD).

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