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Obesity and diabetes haunt Zimbabwe: Report

By Khanyile Mlotshwa

Zimbabwe is facing a growing trend of obesity and diabetes cases as a result of failure to meet some of the global nutritional targets, according to the Global Nutrition Report for 2021 released today.

The report said, although Zimbabwe is ‘on course’ to meet three of the six global nutrition targets, the country still has a long way to go in terms of low birth weight and has shown limited progress towards achieving the diet-related non-communicable disease (NCD) targets.

“The country has shown no progress towards achieving the target for obesity, with an estimated 27.9 percent of adult (aged 18 years and over) women and 5.6 percent of adult men living with obesity,” the report said.

“Zimbabwe’s obesity prevalence is higher than the regional average of 20.7 percent for women but is lower than the regional average of 9.2 percent for men. At the same time, diabetes is estimated to affect 8.1 percent of adult women and 7.3 percent of adult men.”

Poverty and declining income have affected most Zimbabweans – both rural and urban – and as a result of food insecurity, most have been forced to consume unhealthy food where they can get it.

The 2019 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee projected that an estimated 5,5 million Zimbabweans living in rural areas forcing them into food insecurity during the peak of the 2019/20 lean season. Of the 5,5 million food insecure citizens, 3.8 million needed food assistance.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the nutrition targets were endorsed in 2012 by the World Health Assembly’s Resolution 65.6 and focus on a comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition.

The nutrition targets that by 2025 are to achieve a 40 percent reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted, achieve a 50 percent reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age, achieve a 30 percent reduction in low birth weight, ensure that there is no increase in childhood overweight, increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50 percent, and reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5 percent.

The 2021 Global Nutrition Report said Zimbabwe is ‘on course’ to meet three targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN).

“Some progress has been made towards achieving the target of reducing anaemia among women of reproductive age, with 28.9 percent of women aged 15 to 49 years now affected,” the report said.

However, the report noted that there was “no progress” made towards achieving the low-birth-weight target, “with 12.6 percent of infants having a low weight at birth.”

“Some progress has been made towards achieving the exclusive breastfeeding target, with 41.9 percent of infants aged 0 to 5 months exclusively breastfed,” the report said.

“Zimbabwe is ‘on course’ to meet the target for stunting, with 23.5 percent of children under 5 years of age affected, which is lower than the average for the Africa region (30.7 percent).

“Zimbabwe is also ‘on course’ for the target for wasting, with 2.9 percent of children under 5 years of age affected, which is lower than the average for the Africa region (6 percent). The prevalence of overweight children under 5 years of age is 2.5 percent and Zimbabwe is ‘on course’ to prevent the figure from increasing.”

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