The Namibian Windhoek
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THE levels of stunting amongst children in Namibia are still too high, global child rights advocate for the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) Graca Machel has said.

Machel was speaking at a gala dinner held in her honour by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila last week.

She was in Namibia with Unicef regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa Leila Pakkala for a three-day visit to lend support to government’s efforts to reduce malnutrition amongst children, and accelerate the realisation of children’s rights.

Machel said one in four children in Namibia do not have the right size in terms of height, and one in eight children are much slimmer than what would be expected for their age.

“It is too many children, even if it were less than 24%, who are being denied the opportunity to develop their faculties to become full citizens who can have their potential realised. This is an indictment we cannot put up with,” she said.

The child rights advocate further said Namibia still has levels of child and maternal mortality that are unacceptable. A media statement issued by Unicef yesterday said under-five deaths in Namibia have decreased from 4 200 per year in 1990 to less than 3 000 in 2013, while the maternal mortality ratio has declined from 449 per 100 000 live births to 385 per 100 000 live births over the same period.

The percentage of underweight children has declined from 17% in 2006 to 13% in 2013, while stunting prevalence also declined from 29% to 24%, it added. Children affected by malnutrition, especially in the first 1 000 days of life, do not reach their full physical and intellectual potential.

In a speech read on her behalf, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said Namibia is committed to ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030, and to achieve the internationally agreed targets on stunting in children under five, while addressing the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons by 2025.

Namibia has adopted a number of policies, plans and strategies aimed at improving the nutritional status of the Namibian population.

These policies include the food and nutrition policy, the strategic plan for nutrition, national alliance for improved nutrition and the Namibia school feeding programme.

– Nampa