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CSO-SUN bemoans govt failure to increase resource allocation to nutrition sector

THE Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance says the 2022 national budget is a death sentence to the over 16,000 children who are projected to die in 2022 as a result of failure by government to increase resource allocation to the nutrition sector.

Country coordinator Mathews Mhuru expressed disappointment with the failure by the new dawn government to place any importance to the fight against malnutrition as evidenced by the inadequate allocation to the nutrition sector in the 2022 national budget.

“Like many other organisations who have been fighting for justice for the various people they represent, 12th August 2021 presented a lot of hope for the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance regarding the fight against malnutrition in the country,” he said. “On a number of occasions the President addressed the people, he never missed an opportunity to indicate how important it was for his government to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all Zambians as a bare minimum. During his first press conference at the Community House, at his inauguration at the Heroes Stadium, and during the official opening of the first session of the 13th National Assembly, the President at all these occasions emphasised that no Zambian under his administration will go to bed hungry.”

Mhuru said with such pronouncements coming from the highest office in the land, the alliance was convinced that for the first time in a long time, there was an administration that not only cared about people having access to food but nutritious and safe food.

“We were also convinced that for the first time we would see a shift in the allocation patterns in the national budget as a way of guaranteeing delivery on these pronouncements. However, on 29th October 2021, finance minister Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane delivered the 2022 national budget which unfortunately spoke otherwise about the commitment shown by the President regarding the provision of safe and nutritious food to the Zambian people,” he said. “Like in the many previous budgets, there was no mention of the word ‘nutrition’ in the budget speech, the first indication that there is limited prioritisation of nutrition.”

Mhuru said a further perusal of the budget speech and the yellow book indicated that key nutrition budget lines, including the school feeding programme, growth monitoring, management of malnutrition, among others, are not mentioned at all, making the alliance wonder whether the current administration was committed to the fight against food and nutrition insecurity notwithstanding the President’s commitments.

He said other than nutrition and key nutrition budget lines, Dr Musokotwane indicated the commitment by the UPND administration to boost irrigation farming as a way of shifting from rain fed agriculture and yet budget lines allocated “for this activity” had been reduced by over 50 per cent compared to the 2021 budget.

“We wonder how this will be achieved with reduced budget lines. We have further noted with disappointment, reduced allocation in the agro-ecology in the 2022 national budget which supports sustainable agricultural practices and is in line with the commitments made at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York attended by President Hichilema this year,” he said. “The CSO-SUN is therefore disappointed with the failure by the new dawn government to place any importance to the fight against malnutrition as evidenced by the inadequate allocation to the nutrition sector in the 2022 national budget. This places the New Dawn administration in the same ‘clique’ of politicians who have not seen the importance of reducing the alarming rates of malnutrition.”

Mhuru expressed worry that the 2022 national budget was silent on matters related to food safety.

“This could mean that institutions mandated to enforce the Food Safety Act of 2019, which include the ministries of health and local government will be unable to protect the public as far as food safety is concerned. Since enactment, the PF government, and now the new dawn government have failed to provide adequate resources to food safety, which has led to increased cases of unsafe food being sold to unsuspecting citizens,” he said. “This has also led to increased cases of unethical practices and falsehood in the marketing of food products which is against the provisions of the food safety Act. With these findings of our budget analysis, we can safely say that the 2022 national budget is a death sentence to the over 16,000 children who are projected to die in 2022 as a result of failure by the government to increase resource allocation to the nutrition sector.”

He wondered how the new dawn government intends to utilise the money given by donors such as the UK, German governments and other cooperating partners towards improving the nutrition status of Zambia when they had failed to place any importance to the nutrition sector in the national budget.

Mhuru reiterated that donor dependence to fight malnutrition was unsustainable and therefore required commitment to mobilise resources locally.

He said since Zambia had missed an opportunity to adequately fund the nutrition sector in the 2022 national budget, the CSO-SUN urged the government to prioritise the fight against malnutrition by increasing the funding allocation to both nutrition specific and sensitive programmes.

He said the government must ensure that the money given to the country by donors for this cause is used for intended purposes to attract more funding that would enable the country to meet its nutrition related needs.

“Allocate more resources to food safety efforts to protect the public from unsafe and unhealthy foods which have devastating health effects. The food packs given to vulnerable people by both the Ministry of Community Development and the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit should be nutrition sensitive to cover up for the dwindling budget to the nutrition sector,” he said.

He said the government must increase financing to disaster prevention and restructure the Farmer Input Support Programme to address the dietary needs of the citizens, and not the promotion of maize production.

Mhuru said the government must make detailed budgets for individual ministries accessible so that stakeholders can provide meaningful support to the government.

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