- Lesotho has made plans for the use of 18.8 million dollars towards ending malnutrition.
- The policy direction would target pregnant women, children under the age of five, adolescents, and patients.
Lesotho has committed 18.8 million dollars towards ending malnutrition, with adolescent girls being the main focus of the program.
The southern African kingdom with a population of 2.3 million people received a 22 million loan from the World Bank and a 4.4 million-dollar co-financing grant from the Power of Nutrition for the program.
Both monies are for the Lesotho Nutrition and Health System Strengthening Project, which aims to implement the National Food and Nutrition Strategy.
“Some of the money will be used to purchase equipment for food production, while some will go to national campaigns and nutrition education, which will be driven by nutritionists, nutrition clubs, and village health workers,” said Mokhothu Makhalanyane, the chair of the National Assembly’s Social Cluster.
“All national nutrition-related issues will be integrated into health, education, and agriculture.”
Makhalanyane added that the policy direction would target pregnant women, children under the age of five, adolescents, and patients.
The project will also involve strengthening community-based nutrition service delivery in districts with high stunting rates.
It will target nutrition-specific interventions, including adolescent and maternal dietary supplementation, treatment of severe acute malnutrition, and disease prevention and management.
In Lesotho’s National Strategic Development Plan II, which ends this year, King Leslie III urged the government to work towards reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
King Letsie III is the African Union Champion for Nutrition, Food, and Agriculture and a Special Ambassador on Nutrition and Human Capital Champion of the World Bank.
Makhalanyane stressed that nutrition clubs in villages and schools will provide education about nutrition and assist people to get into small-scale agriculture as a measure to address malnutrition at household levels.
“The issue of malnutrition is complicated. To get it right, all children need to access nutritious food in schools through school-feeding programs. We are trying but the money is inadequate thus the school feeding programs are implemented under very limited budgets,” he said.
“At the moment, a child gets a meal that costs 19 cents but each one of them is supposed to get a meal that costs 33 cents. This happens because we cannot afford the nutritious food that is required.”
To ensure that the money is properly utilized, Makhalanyane said the Social Cluster will track the progress of different projects.
“The monitoring would look at the number of people reached and the spending. There is a team with officials from the Office of the Prime Minister and the ministries of Agriculture, Education, and Health tasked with doing the monitoring,” he said.
According to the 2022 Global Nutrition Report, Lesotho is on course to meet the targets for the Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Feeding Nutrition (MIYCN) campaign.
The report indicates that Lesotho has made progress towards achieving the target for stunting, but 34.6 percent of children under five are still affected, which is higher than the 30.7 percent average for Africa.
“Lesotho is on course for the target for wasting, with 2.1 percent of children under the age of five affected, which is lower than the 6 percent average for Africa,” read part of the report.
“The prevalence of overweight children aged below five is 6.6 percent and Lesotho is on course to prevent the figure from increasing.”
The report showed that no progress has been made toward achieving the target of reducing anemia among women of reproductive age, with 27.9 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 years now affected.
“Meanwhile, there has also been no progress towards achieving the low birth weight target, with 14.6 percent of infants having low weight at birth,” the report read and indicated that Lesotho had shown limited progress towards achieving the diet-related non-communicable disease (NCD) targets.
Four districts have been targeted to benefit from the World Bank-financed Lesotho Nutrition and Health System Strengthening project.
Thaba-Tseka, Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek, and Botha-Bothe districts have produced “concerning statistics on malnutrition and teenage pregnancy,” according to Lisebo Seheri, a nutritionist from the Ministry of Health.
“According to the Lesotho Demographic Health Survey (LDHS) and the 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, the four districts have higher cases of teenage pregnancies compared to the other six districts, hence the focus,” Seheri said.
The adolescent birth rate in Lesotho is reported to be high at 94 per 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19 years, according to the 2003-2018 statistics.
The LDHS reports that teenage pregnancies were high among girls from rural areas and poorer families.
“We are working closely with adolescent health programs at community health centers, and the project is expected to end in five years,” Seheri added.
The project includes interventions aimed at improving overall fetal and child nutrition and development.
According to Dr. Richard Pendame, the regional director of Nutrition International, adolescent nutrition is important because malnutrition is a public health concern that affects over 56 million adolescents living in the East, Central, and South Africa Health Committee (EACS-HC) states.
He indicated that nearly 50 percent of adolescents in the ECSA-HC states are stunted, while approximately 30 percent of adolescent girls are anemic.
“Improved nutrition during the adolescent period is critical because it translates to better school performance, improved productivity and in turn leads to better opportunities in adulthood, high economic development, lower maternal mobility and mortality and lower cost of maternal healthcare,” he said, pointing out that adolescents in the region have previously been neglected.