As part of activities ending a week-long nutrition campaign conducted at Ha Makebe, the Berea District Nutrition Team (DNT) held a meeting with district leaders on Friday to share nutrition status and also to get their input aimed at bringing about positive change.
During the meeting attended by Berea Members of Parliament (MPs), as well as representatives of Principal Chiefs, DNT District Food and Nutrition Coordinating Officer (DFNCO), Mrs Maletsatsi Lesia said the district used to be under the spotlight for being among the top four districts with a high rate of malnourished babies at 35.6 percent and a high stunting rate of 36.5 percent.
Mrs Lesia indicated that the recent 2018/2019 Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) report focusing on Berea has revealed a slight drop in malnutrition from 35.6 to 22 percent; stunting which was 36.5, has dropped to 22 percent as well, while for underweight babies the figure is at 17.2 percent.
She further said the livelihood coping strategy in rural population for those not coping is 66 percent, while as for those in crisis it is at four percent and emergency is two percent.
For those living in urban areas; 68 percent are not coping, while 29 percent of the population is in the stress category and with emergencies at four percent.
DFNCO said despite a slight decrease in both the malnutrition and stunting rates, there is remarkable progress according to results from several intervention strategies which they applied such as blanket feeding and promoting breast feeding. Sadly, at Ha Makebe they found three malnourished babies one of whom died.
Among the contributing factors to malnutrition and stunting is poverty and hunger which force women to skip the country in search for jobs in neighbouring South Africa, leaving babies starving with elderly people.
Mrs. Lesia said now that King Letsie III is Africa’s Nutrition Champion, there is need for district leadership to pioneer healthy eating campaigns so that they can lead a healthy nation, hence the initiative to unite them so that they can also have a stake.
Sharing the same sentiments, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security District Nutrition Officer (DNO), Ms. Nthabiseng Mantutle, said Lesotho among countries which have pledged its commitment to strive to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), especially goals number one to three which are more focused on promoting zero hunger and decent well-being.
Mantutle said it is only through concerted efforts of various stakeholders, including leadership, that they can win the battle against poverty and hunger and also promote a healthy lifestyle by pushing policies and strategies that ensure people’s well-being is well catered for.
She highlighted that efforts to promote a healthy nation start the moment a baby is born by promoting a healthy eating lifestyle through breast-feeding for six months and by so doing such a baby will achieve full potential development.
DNO indicated that members of the public need to be revived with establishment of community centres where they can unite and share skills about ways to start income generating development projects. She added that Basotho are behind in technology and through such centres they can upgrade some relevant skills.
Khubetsoana Member of Parliament Likopo Mahase stressed that there is need to change the mindset of people by encouraging them to unite in such a way they can come up with one thing in common on how best they can be uplifted.
Mahase also urged DNT not to hesitate but should involve them as the district’s leadership because the success of the district on nutrition issues would in the end be the success of the entire nation.
Also speaking, Ts’oana Makhulo MP Ts’oeu Molise said re-establishment of neighbourhood love can be the best strategy to stop people from starving, adding that they as leaders have to stand united on protection of local produce at the market.
Representing Mamathe Principal Chief’s office, Chief Sekhobe Masupha, said for an individual to touch the lives of people and to promote a healthy nation, agriculture is the pillar and, as a result, it is important to set up economically viable farming projects and agri-processing zone in Teyateyaneng.
Chief Masupha said land allocation needs to be prioritised properly in a way that can enable farming projects to be scaled up with dynamic management system.
Furthermore, he said lack of a value chain remains a critical challenge forcing farmers to be stuck as they do not know where to market their produce.
On the other hand, during the campaign at Ha-Makebe, the District Nutrition Team conducted activities which include screening of babies with the aim to check for illnesses related to poor eating and they also supervised the public on how to follow hygiene practices such as checking the Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC), as well as to measure the length of the babies in relation to their age and weight.
Among other things, what the nutrition team did was to demonstrate for the nursing mothers ways to preserve and to prepare food with locally available resources.