Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWE is facing an increase in nutritional challenges among children under the age of five, prompting First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Angel of Hope Foundation to approach various companies to assist in arresting the micro-nutrient deficiency challenge.
The First Lady is the country’s health ambassador with a passion for the welfare of children, women and the elderly.
She is the patron of Angel of Hope Foundation and quality childcare is one of the foundation’s core values.
Amai Mnangagwa has been running a countrywide supplementary school feeding programme targeted at addressing poor school performance owing to malnutrition and hunger.
She introduced a critical feeding programme targeting infants and toddlers as she steps up efforts to ensure every child’s nutritional requirements are catered for.
Yesterday, Nestle Zimbabwe donated cereals worth $200 000 in support of the feeding programme.
Amai Mnangagwa said the Zimbabwe National Micronutrient Survey Report of 2015 established that 72.2 percent of children who are between six and 59 months of age faced a challenge of iron deficiency.
“This is a very serious problem as it means that out of every 10 babies, seven of them will be lacking iron,” she said.
“Reducing iron deficiency is, therefore, increasingly becoming important. This will cause stunting in most affected children, where we see these children growing unproportionally.”
It is in this light, the First Lady said, that she encouraged mothers to feed their children with nutritious meals such as peanut butter, pumpkin, beans, sweet potatoes, fresh garden vegetables and meat.
She urged women to keep goats, sheep, chickens and ducks so that they can meet their family’s requirements for relish.
“As mothers, we are here to prepare body-building food for our children,” said the First Lady.
“We can prepare suitable porridge and we can mash pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potatoes and madhumbe for our infants and children.
“Let us go back to our traditional foods for they encompass a vast array of nutrients which are body and mind-builders enabling our children to grow healthy.
“I also encourage every mother to have fruit trees at home and I have also been encouraging the growing of traditional grains such as millet and sorghum. There is a new programme spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture of Pfumvudza (dhiga udye) which means there is no day in a year a family will go hungry.”
The First Lady said people should avoid eating green mealies from the Pfumvudza project so that they realise high yields from their small pieces of land where they get maize meal for porridge and mahewu for children.
“From all these, mothers are now able to serve a dish or two of traditional meals on every meal,” she said.
“However, it is important to note that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, with the addition of complementary foods from six months alongside continued breast feeding to 24 months and beyond.
“I am also urging both pregnant and lactating mothers to feed themselves on nutritious foods.
“In our traditional foods we have mutakura, rupiza, nzungu, mufushwa wemubowora kana wemuriwo wemugadheni une dovi or chimukuyu chine dovi, just to mention a few.
“With such types of foods, this will assist in the growth of the foetus, hence ensuring the delivery of healthy babies whilst lactating mothers will produce nutritious milk for their children.”
The First Lady thanked Nestle for accepting her request to join her in the feeding programme by providing Nestle Nestum and Nestle Cerelac, which will be channelled towards feeding vulnerable children.
“Nestle is a pioneer in nutritional meals for infants and toddlers,” she said.
“Their innovative products ensure a balanced diet at any stage in infancy. Access to quality childcare is one of Angel of Hope Foundation’s core values and this donation will go a long way in facilitating the realisation of this principle.”
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Nestle regulatory affairs manager and corporate communication officer Mrs Yamurai Zhou expressed hope that the donation would bolster the First Lady’s complementary feeding programme aimed at alleviating malnutrition among children countrywide.
She said the donation was in support of the First Lady’s efforts to help feed vulnerable children in the society.
“At Nestle, we are deeply for people and for the communities where we operate,” said Mrs Zhou.
“We will continuously strive to offer support where we can, more so in these difficult times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic which has disrupted people’s livelihoods, particularly the vulnerable population among us.”