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Scaling up nutrition in Zambia

Zambia is one of thirty countries to have joined the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ or SUN programme launched two years ago.

SUN is a country-led movement which brings together a range of organisations and bodies to help national governments set priorities for improving nutrition and align resources. One third of the world’s children will not reach their full potential because of poor diet and better nutrition is now recognised as essential for both an individual’s development and that of a nation as a whole.

Last month, a high-level SUN meeting took place at the United Nations General Assembly, hosted by the UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The event marked the release of the SUN 2012 progress report, which highlights “a dramatic increase both in high-level political backing for nutrition and in bringing together diverse groups of people around common goals”. According to the report, many countries are now setting clear nutrition targets, scaling up programmes and putting resources in place which are based around inexpensive nutrition interventions and breastfeeding.

Zambia committed to the SUN initiative in December 2010. Stunting affects over two-fifths of the country’s under-fives. The Zambian National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) is responsible for activities across the country and focuses primarily on vulnerable groups such as children, and pregnant or nursing mothers. So for example, its ‘Infant and Young Child Feeding’ programme promotes recommended feeding practices for children below the age of two years, such as exclusive breastfeeding for infants in the first six months of life. The SUN 2012 progress report states that, based on the latest surveys, breastfeeding rates among mothers have been rising, with 60-70% of Zambian women exclusively breastfeeding in the first six months.

When it comes to targeting malnutrition in older children, a key form of action is the school feeding scheme (called ‘Food for Education’), supported by the World Food Programme. This provides meals for children when they’re at school in regions which are food insecure. The programme runs in 18 districts of Zambia which most frequently suffer from drought and offers children foods at school which are fortified with micronutrients and sugar.

Speaking to the news agency IRIN, a SUN spokesperson said one of the strengths of its programme is that it enables country members like Zambia to “share their experiences with [others] developing and implementing national strategies”. Sometimes, seeing how and where the best results for improving nutrition are achieved can be an important form of inspiration and encouragement.

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