Vital Zinc Lacking from most Children’s Meals in the Horn of Africa Region


Somalilandsun – Eighty per cent of children in Kenya between the ages of 5 to 14 years lack Zinc in their nutritional intake, a new study has revealed.

Social norms, restrictive food practices and abseentism during school feeding programs have been cited as the main issues hampering adolescents and children from attaining the required nutritional standard.

A report by the Ministry of Health and the World Food Program (WFP) revealed that majority of these children come from poor households and only feed on the type of food that is available to them which is always pegged on its cost.

“We have also noted that many data gaps in terms of evidence have been hindering effective strategies to addressing nutrition challenges in adolescents and adolescent girls in particular.” WFP Senior deputy country director Brenda Behan on Friday said.

Zinc comes from eleven different food groups that include beans, red meat, nuts, eggs, seeds, fats, fruits, dairy and grain products.

Grains are the leading source of zinc and iron. Pumpkin seeds are known to have high zinc concretes. A number of households are using them to fortify porridge flour while mixing it with other sources of minerals such as omena, which contains proteins.

Oral rehydration salts (ORS) is the recommended treatment for childhood diarrhoea as it replaces essential fluids and salts lost through diarrhoea. Both ORS and zinc are also used to complement other interventions that include rota-virus vaccination.

“This report is timely as we are at a time when the country is deciding on the best way of holistically addressing the nutrition needs of the adolescents. We want to encourage all stakeholders to engage in discourse, and leverage opportunities in understanding this research to comprehensively address the needs of adolescents.” Adolescent Health Programs Manager Christine Wambugu from the ministry of health said.

Apart from Zinc deficiency other micronutrients that adolescents lack include; iron, and vitamin A.

Iron deficiency was ranked as the highest contributor to high anemia rates among all highlighted vulnerable groups, pointing to poor dietary iron intake among this population.

Children receive a meal at a school through the World Food Programme (WFP) in the drought-hit Baligubadle village near Hargeisa, the capital city of Somaliland/IFRC &RCS

The report also highlighted the risks faced by adolescent girls pertaining to their nutrition, health and education status as they are more vulnerable as a result of; early pregnancy , menstruation as well as a higher level of physical demands.

The report called for an urgent need to improve the nutritional uptake in the school feeding program particularly in drought-affected zones.

Portion sizes and micronutrient content should also be adjusted to cater to the greater nutrient needs of adolescents as compared to younger children.

By RHODA ODHIAMBO @odhiamborhoda