Status of micronutrient nutrition in Zimbabwe: A review

  • TH Gadaga
  • R Madzima
  • N Nembaware
Keywords: Micronutrients, malnutrition, vitamin A, anaemia


More than 65% of the Zimbabwean population live in the rural areas and are food insecure especially due to droughts. The population experiences fluctuating levels of malnutrition including vitamin and mineral malnutrition. This paper constitutes a review of the micronutrient malnutrition status of the Zimbabwean population, focusing on the period from 1980 to 2006, using data from nutrition surveys, the demographic health surveys, sentinel surveillance and monitoring programmes. Data collated from the numerous surveys show that a significant proportion of children under 5 years of age, school children, pregnant and lactating women experience malnutrition. In 1999, 35.8% of children 12-71 months of age were vitamin A deficient (serum retinol <0.70μmol/L). In March 2005, 22.3% of targeted children received vitamin A capsules during routine visits to clinics for growth monitoring and immunisation. However, about 82% of the targeted children received vitamin A capsules during Child Health Days, which is therefore an effective strategy. More than 95% of households in the country have access to iodised salt, while the median urinary iodine in 2005 was about 200μg/L. In 1997, about 9% of the population were found to have less than 10μg/L serum ferritin leading to the conclusion that iron deficiency anaemia was of public health significance in Zimbabwe. About 31% of women of child bearing age were found to be anaemic in a 1999 survey leading to the expansion of iron tablet distribution during ante-natal visits. However, in 2005, 43% of pregnant women were taking iron supplements during pregnancy, with women in urban areas less likely to take iron supplements than women living in rural areas. There is need, therefore, to increase efforts to reduce micronutrient deficiencies in the country. Fortification of vegetable oil with vitamin A is technically feasible and the vitamin is stable for up to 6 months at 23oC. With increasing evidence of other micronutrient deficiencies such as the B-group vitamins, fortification of staple foods, such maize meal, could be a long term strategy of addressing micronutrient deficiencies in Zimbabwe.

Keywords: Micronutrients, malnutrition, vitamin A, anaemia

AJFAND Vol. 9 (1) 2009: pp. 503-522

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eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358