Elizabeth Andreya Features Writer
The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, Boost Fellowship, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recently conducted a three-day nutrition event focused on creating ICT-based solutions by adolescents and youth to address malnutrition in Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the Nutrition Hackathon last week, UNICEF representative Laylee Moshiri said everyone had to take nutritional issues seriously, as poor nutrition comes with many dangers.

She said UNICEF will continue to partner with other UN sister agencies to promote further work with young people.

“Nutrition is something we all need to take very seriously as we see the effects of poor nutrition every day,” said Moshiri. “Stunting, micro-nutrient deficiencies, overweight, obesity and the subsequent rise in nutrition-related non-communicable diseases have had negative effects on the health of our population.

“We hope to continue our work with more initiatives and partnerships, including with our UN sister agencies, especially to promote further innovations with young people, as well as continue the work in nutrition and healthy lifestyles and foster participation of young people.”

At least 11 groups comprising 60 young innovators across Zimbabwe, who created ICT-based solutions to solve malnutrition problems, took part in the Nutrition Hackathon.

Some of the mobile applications by the young innovators link farmers with their customers, and this helps to create markets for small-scale farmers in rural areas.

Other applications provide nutritional food timetables for people with different health statuses, including those living with HIV.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)defines malnutrition as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.

Basically, it has been categorised into two groups.

The first one is under nutrition, which includes stunting, wasting, underweight and micro-nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies.

Another category comprises overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).

ICTs have become a strong ally in strengthening individuals’ healthy lifestyle, taking into account nutrition intake and physical activity levels.

Nutrition applications provide the means for automatic dietary intake and energy expenditure measurements, as well as personalised counselling and educational     services.

Technology can help us in solving the problem of malnutrition, especially now when everything is being done through the internet. This can also help us to achieve a healthy world.

Malnutrition is mainly affecting youths and adolescents, with obesity among this demographic increasing due to over-eating and/or consistently making poor food choices, mainly influenced by social media.

Technology can then help solve this problem since this demographic mainly uses the internet, and their choice of food is often influenced by what they see there.

There is need to encourage the consumption of indigenous foods through social media platforms and nutritional applications, as these days, people shun our traditional dishes opting for junk foods.

The mobile applications can be effective in ending malnutrition to people of all ages because they will provide nutritional information to most of the people who use smartphones.

To ensure rural people and smallholder farmers continue to play a critical role in global food and nutrition security, they need access to technology and to information, which is key to their success.

While the ICTs can play a crucial role in solving malnutrition, the nutrition applications should be checked for accuracy since they are going to be used for behaviour change by many people with a variety of needs for a long period of time.

They should be efficient, accurate and functional.

Extreme hunger and malnutrition hinder the path to economic development and sustainability.

This Nutrition Hackathon and the introduction of these 11 ICT-based nutrition innovations can be drivers to achieve Sustainable Development Goal No. 2 of the United Nations, which seeks to end hunger and malnutrition and ensure access to enough safe and nutritious food for all.

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