Undernutrition rampant in urban Sub-Saharan Africa

young boy suffering from malnutrition
Copyright: Panos

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  • A programme is facilitating local assessment of undernutrition
  • It provides a platform for key actors to identify and address undernutrition
  • An expert cites limited funding as a challenge to tackling urban undernutrition

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[NAIROBI] A programme is helping address undernutrition — insufficient quantity and quality of food intake by a person — in Sub-Saharan Africa through creation of a local platform to assess and discuss challenges.
According to UNICEF, about 28 percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are underweight. But experts say existing nutrition assessment such as household economy approach face challenges such as lack of in-depth assessments and situational analyses.
To help address these challenges, Action Against Hunger (AFC), a humanitarian non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in France has developed a programme called Link Nutrition Casual Analysis (Link NCA).

“Urban malnutrition has evaded policymakers and researchers for a long time since it is a unique continuous process.”

Esther Mogusu, Nairobi County


“Link NCA is a local process that tries to understand what’s happening across different regions by providing independent nutrition survey and analysis and providing multi-sectoral tailor-shaped nutrition security programmes to the communities and stakeholders,” said Blanche Mattern, AFC and Link NCA technical advisor, during the Link NCA Learning Event held in Kenya on 28 February.
Mattern explains that compared to other nutritional analysis programmes, Link NCA uses people-centred approach.
This programme mobilises NGOs, county governments and communities faced with the challenge of undernutrition, Mattern says.
With the support of Link NCA technical unit, Concern Worldwide, an NGO, has been conducting in-depth surveys and analyses of Mukuru and Viwandani slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
Preliminary results of the study indicated some of the major factors causing undernutrition to be poorly managed day care centres, fluctuation in food prices, and poor housing, health-seeking behaviour, or sanitation.
Esther Mogusu, Nairobi County nutrition coordinator, tells SciDev.Net: “Urban malnutrition has evaded policymakers and researchers for a long time since it is a unique continuous process unlike arid malnutrition which is cyclical. This has led to a steep rise of undernutrition cases in urban areas.”
She says the county government of Nairobi plans to mobilise communities to understand what good nutrition is, work with city planning and relevant departments to bring sanity to structures in slums and provide proper drainage and sanitation.

“For Kenya and Africa as a whole to achieve its sustainable development goals, nutrition has to be one of the top agendas,” says Mogusu, citing limited funding for urban nutrition as a challenge.
Link NCA provides unique platform where governments and other key actors can link together to solve undernutrition in urban areas.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.