Youth in Agriculture for Economic Development (YAED) on Thursday called for a coordinated effort in the fight against malnutrition and poverty alleviation among infants and the youth respectively. YAED said the war against malnutrition and poverty will only be won if different stakeholders join hands to fight against the pandemic.
Speaking in Chiradzulu during the launch of rooting out infant malnutrition with Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) project, YAED Programs Manager Happy Arnold said access to clean planting material for nutritious crops remains a challenge in potato production. He advised women and youth to join hands in the eradication of malnutrition and poverty for a better Malawi.
Arnold said OFSP is increasingly becoming an important crop in terms of its contribution to food and nutrition security.
“Deaths of infants caused by poverty should be put to an end. This can only work better if we work hand in hand with young mothers and the youth in poverty alleviation and economic development. Owing to the fact that OFSP is drought tolerant, it can be used to address Vitamin A deficiency and food insecurity. It’s pathetic to see children dying due to malnutrition.
Arnold cited that the project will assist young mothers and youth in the production of OFSP and equip them with knowledge on the importance of the daily consumption of nutritious foods. YAED Co-Founder added that malnutrition has an impact on the development of a community and nation at large especially delayed psychomotor development among the infants.
“Unfortunately, even if Malawian mothers have a good understanding of healthy infant feeding practices they cannot be able to implement them because of other constraints like poverty. Poverty forces mothers to seek additional income away from home and this endangers the health status of infants. They are not feed with nutritious foods that are readily available and can be locally produced and processed.”
“We have donated clean OFSP vines to young mothers and youth. The project will also train these beneficiaries on root production, processing of nutritious foods like flour and cakes. We will also equip them with knowledge on the importance of daily consumption of nutritious food made from OFSP, added Arnold.
In his remarks International Potato Center (CIP) Project Facilitator John Kazembe said there are high chances of reducing malnutrition with OFSP. He pointed that nutrient deficiency infections commonly occur in children. He said malnutrition has big devastating effects on the economy of the country and needs to be addressed at all costs. Kazembe narrated that if not carefully considered, the pandemic may result into permanent morbidity especially to children five and under and high social cost services to the health sector in particular.
Added Kazembe, “malnourishment can greatly compromise a child’s immune system making them more susceptible to infectious diseases. Particularly in situations where there are poor sanitary practices, children are vulnerable to infections from other children or caregivers. OFSP can actually play a big role in combating the permanent morbidity and high social cost which is already crippling the health sector. Malawi will continue facing numerous challenges of malnutrition if not fully addressed. As such there is need to adopt the use of OFSP and fight malnutrition. This is why we are giving these beneficiaries two varieties of Kadyaubwelele and Mathuthu which are nutritious and high in yield.
With one in eight children dying each year in Malawi from preventable conditions including neonatal defects, malaria and HIV-related diseases, attention to the nutritional status of Malawian children is essential. The strengthening of short-term methodologies such as dietary supplementation coupled with investments in long-term food-based strategies will allow continued successes in reducing national malnutrition rates.
YAED realizes the need to address the phenomenon through engaging women in orange sweet potato farming to address malnutrition. Thirty young women and youth have benefited in the piloting first phase of the project which is being funded by The Pollination Project.