International Women’s Day – a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day is also a call to action through events large and small focusing on equality. As e’Pap we celebrate all, but especially women in Africa who work so hard to nurture their families in the face of life challenges.
Approximately one billion women and girls worldwide do not have access to good nutrition. This hinders their ability to live their lives to the fullest, obstructs their ability to learn effectively and earn to potential. Statistics from the 2017 Global Nutrition Report states that the financing needed to tackle malnutrition does not match the high levels of malnutrition. Countries only allocate between one percent and two percent of their health budgets, while donors only spend about 0.5 percent of overseas aid on nutrition.
According to the report, indicators for nutrition are also alarming because 28 percent of children under the age of five in southern Africa still suffer from stunting. The report adds that 12 percent of children under five are underweight.
“In spite of significant progress in reducing levels of malnutrition by the SADC countries, malnutrition remains stubbornly high, with two-thirds of countries in the region showing levels of stunting above 30 percent,” founder of the Graca Machel Trust, Graca Machel, said.
According to UNICEF under-nutrition contributes to up to 50 percent of all cases of child mortality. In turn, this places huge burden on government fiscus with millions spent on treating medical problems that could be prevented with adequate nutrition.
Poor nutrition in girls and women is not only the result of inadequate quantities and quality of food. During adolescence, girls’ risk of anemia and iron deficiency increases due to quick growth and menstruation, often further enhanced by malaria and parasitic infections. Iron deficiency and anemia slow growth and increase fatigue, leading to lower performance in school.
During pregnancy, anemia increases the risk of complications and is also a main cause of maternal death. Eastern and Southern Africa have one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world with some 80,000 women in the region dying every year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, many of these deaths as a result of under nutrition.
If a woman’s nutritional status is poor at conception and if she does not gain sufficient weight during pregnancy, she will most likely give birth to a low birth weight baby. Her child may never catch up in terms of growth and, as an adult, will run an increased risk of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes. This child will more than likely never develop to potential all due to poor nutrition. As the founder of e’Pap, Dr Basil Kransdorff said, “It is a crime against humanity as there could be a thousand Einsteins in Africa who just never reached their potential”, all because of a lack of adequate vitamins and minerals in their diets.
Nutrition has a direct impact on the health status of people living with HIV and AIDS. In the region, HIV prevalence among girls and young women is reported to be two to four times higher than among boys and young men. Because of stigma and the fear of being rejected by their families, women often refrain from getting tested or disclosing their HIV status, thus limiting their chances of getting treated when they become malnourished.
Gender inequality is an important underlying cause of women’s under-nutrition and is further aggravated by poverty and lack of access to resources. In many cultural settings in the region, boys and men traditionally eat first, and girls and women eat the leftovers. When food is short, this can mean females have very little to eat. Because of gender norms, women often also have limited access to and control over resources and may therefore be excluded from household buying decisions.
Today, on International Women’s Day, reflect on the crucial role nutrition plays in achieving gender equality globally. Here at e’Pap we recognise that improving nutrition for everyone is critical, but we also need to acknowledge that for women and girls it is fundamental for their empowerment. Improving their nutrition not only benefits them but has ripple effects on entire communities ― now and for generations to come.
In honour of International Women’s Day please participate in this global event by going to www.internationalwomensday.com/PressforProgress – to make your voice heard it’s as simple as pressing a button!
To find out more about adding e’Pap to your diet or to help your favourite community program please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org