According to the July 2020 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) rural assessment, global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence increased from 3.6 per cent to 3.8 per cent (based on MUAC assessment).
The nutrition status of children in Zimbabwe has shown deterioration with the minimum acceptable diet in young children having gone down to a record low at 2.1 per cent, which was a decline from 6.9 per cent recorded in 2019 according to the latest ZimVAC assessment.
Nationally, there was a decrease in households consuming diets with acceptable dietary diversity. Matabeleland North (35 per cent) and Masvingo (27.5 per cent) had the highest proportion of households that were consuming diets with low dietary diversity.
According to the latest ZimVAC, at least 56.2 per cent of the rural households are food (cereal) insecure, whilst there was a signiﬁcant drop in the proportion of women of childbearing age consuming minimum dietary diversity (43 per cent in 2019 to 19 per cent in 2020). Food insecure households were more susceptible to COVID-19 shocks as a result of reduced incomes brought about by the depressed economic activity. The report also shows low proportions of women of childbearing age consuming iron-rich food. Bulilima (3 per cent), Masvingo (5 per cent) and Bindura (5 per cent) had the least proportion of women consuming iron-rich foods.
The Nutrition Cluster has completed the 2021 Humanitarian Needs overview and estimates that approximately 74,267 children under age 5 are affected by wasting (GAM) with at least 38,425 of these being affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
Weekly disease surveillance for the month of December 2020 reported 195 kwashiorkor cases, 42 marasmus-kwashiorkor cases and 86 marasmus cases. Week 51 (14 - 20 December 2020) recorded the highest number of malnutrition cases (kwashiorkor, marasmus kwashiorkor and marasmus combined) on the weekly disease surveillance when compared to the same period in the past five years.
From 14 to 20 December, 57 kwashiorkor cases, 21 marasmus kwashiorkor cases and 33 marasmus cases were recorded. Most cases were reported from Harare Hospital Paediatric Unit (5 kwashiorkor and 5 marasmus kwashiorkor cases), Mutare Provincial hospital (6 kwashiorkor cases), Epworth Polyclinic (4 kwashiorkor, 3 marasmus kwashiorkor and 12 marasmus cases), Overspill clinic (5 marasmus cases), and Dewure Rural Health Centre in Chivi (6 kwashiorkor cases). A total of 139 pellagra cases were reported in December 2020.
Active screening of children under age 5 for wasting has continued in the current COVID-19 lockdown following adoption of family and mother led mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) which aims at limiting the risk of infection by community health workers involved in screening and yet providing the much needed early identiﬁcation and referral of children with wasting to health facilities to access treatment of acute malnutrition.
A total of 61,366 children under 5 were screened for acute malnutrition at health facility level while 171,648 were screened at community level by Village Health Workers (VHW’s). Treatment of acute malnutrition as the most critical life-saving intervention for the nutrition humanitarian response with a total of 531 children admitted for moderate acute malnutrition and 318 for severe acute malnutrition in December 2020.
A total of 15,888 children 6-59 months received Vitamin A supplementation at health facilities and through task sharing, while 27,663 children 6-59 months received vitamin A supplements from VHWs. A total of 748 children received micronutrient powders (MNPs).
About 67,600 mothers and/or caregivers of children under age 2 were reached with infant and young child feeding (IYCF) messages at health facilities, and 87,963 were reached by VHWs.
The Nutrition Cluster funding for the 2020 HRP response activities has remained at $6.5 million against the $24.6 million required.
There is urgent need for provision of adequate PPE for volunteer health workers (VHW) and health facility staff to continue nutrition services in the context of COVID-19.
In some health facilities there is need for prompt re-supply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and micronutrient powders (MNP) for facilities with stock-outs, a need for stronger liaison with the logistics team.
There is continuous need to strengthen routine health management information systems (HMIS) weekly reporting and verification of Rapid-pro data to improve quality of data, particularly in the upcoming period where COVID-19 related travel restrictions will be put in place.
Network challenges are affecting completeness of RapidPro reporting.
Data collection and reporting in urban and peri-urban areas is inconsistent with mostly incomplete malnutrition data, hence masking the real situation on the ground. However, due to deteriorating economic status and poor water and sanitation, data shows that there are likely to be many malnourished children. Nutrition programming in the urban and peri-urban areas is limited, yet there are highly vulnerable population groups due to the deteriorating socio-economic situation compounded by COVID-19 related movement restrictions and economic activity lockdowns.