Fighting Malnutrition in Tanzania

Over the past decade over 600,000 children aged below 5 years are estimated to have died as a result of malnutrition in Tanzania. This year another 43,000 children will die prematurely because they are malnourished. This paper by Uwazi-Twaweza, in association with Policy Forum and Sikika, argues that many of these deaths could have been prevented with more pro-active nutrition authorities.

The paper notes that with around 2.4 million malnourished children, Tanzania is the third worst affected country in Africa. It explains that high levels of malnutrition cause death, but rarely because children starve. Children are dying needlessly because their diets lack basic nutrients to build strong immune systems and stay healthy”. When such children fall sick with diarrhea, malaria or pneumonia they are more likely to die.

Can Tanzania afford to ignore 43,000 dead children and Tshs 700 billion in lost income every year?

Malnutrition hurts the economy as well because ill-fed farmers and laborers are unable to exert much effort, leading to smaller harvests and reduced labor productivity. The loss to the economy is estimated at 2.6 percent of GDP.

Affordable ways exist to reduce malnutrition such as the introduction of food fortification and exclusive breastfeeding. On both counts Tanzania does poorly. Only 13.5% of infants exclusively breastfed at 4-5 months of age, whereas the WHO norm is that all children should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months. And unlike in neighboring countries, only salt is iodized in Tanzania.

If Tanzania would introduce fortified flour and cooking oil, the authors estimate there would be 6,700 less child deaths per year. In addition it would bring a net annual economic benefit of Tshs 153 billion. 

Over the past decade no new major initiatives to reduce malnutrition have been introduced in Tanzania. In contrast, in neighboring countries, fortification of cooking oil and flour is already happening. In Tanzania, millers are reportedly not allowed to fortify because an official standard has not been set by the authorities concerned.

The report argues that “by setting and enforcing food fortification standards and promoting exclusive breastfeeding, the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre and the Tanzania Bureau of Standards can make a real difference. It’s time for them to exercise leadership”.


Food fortification, not yet a reality in Tanzania

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Authors: Policy Forum



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