We are told by Zambia Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance coordinator William Chilufya that nutrition is still a major problem affecting 45 per cent of children under the age of five in our country.

Chilufya says that "presently, nutrition in Zambia is treated as a health issue. While this is important, it overlooks the fact that some causes of under-nutrition or malnutrition are not health-related. A number of interlocking factors lead to insufficient nutrition. The focus on nutrition as a health issue underplays the reality of multiple causal factors that reinforce under-nutrition".

Chilufya further says that there is need for the country to invest politically in the fight against malnutrition and urges the government to develop its capacity to coordinate nutrition interventions across the health, agriculture and education sectors.

What Chilufya is saying is true because we have in this country villages that have a clinic and school but still recording very high levels of malnutrition.
The total failure of our endeavours so far to achieve the basic and essential objective of supplying our children with enough and appropriate food to develop their potentialities for enjoying a full life is today more evident than ever. We are told that 45 per cent of our children under the age of five - a terrifying percentage - are affected by malnutrition.

The painful truth is that, despite the goals to eradicate it, malnutrition among our under-fives still persists and tends to grow. For 45 per cent of our children under the age of five, malnutrition is not a mere conceptual reference, but rather a tragic daily experience, a disgraceful reality for all of us. Malnutrition today defines the living conditions of 45 per cent of our children under the age of five. This is an affront to our collective conscience. It is an imperative need of our times to be aware of this reality, because of what a situation affecting 45 per cent of our children under the age of five entails in terms of human suffering and the squandering of life and intelligence.

The cold eloquence of this percentage - 45 per cent - is in itself terrifying enough. But beyond that percentage lies the tragic situation of hunger, abject poverty and neglect that is individualised many times over. This is evident of the inequalities still existing in our country, not fully reflected in the overall statistical indicators.

The existence of such a large percentage of under-nourished under-fives in our country constitutes an affront to all of us. A stable, permanent solution must be found for this serious problem.

This percentage - 45 per cent - indicates that there are many children in our country who each day cannot meet the basic needs necessary for their development and for a decent human life. These children are entitled to a standard of living worthy of human dignity that includes enough food, clothing and indeed adequate housing.

It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental needs to remain unsatisfied. Living conditions must be improved for the poor and the low-income earners. We are reminded in Proverbs 30:8: "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me." And we are told in Mat 6:11: "Give us this day our daily bread." Are we giving these children - the 45 per cent of our under-fives - that are afflicted with malnutrition their daily bread?

Economic justice requires that each individual, each man, woman and child, has adequate resources to survive, to develop and thrive, and to give back in service to the community.

Meeting the basic needs of families must take top priority in any government planning, with an agricultural policy that respects both the farmer and the consumer. Malnutrition, hunger in our society is a sign of gross injustice and a block to development. We need to provide food at prices which both give a just return to farmers and are reasonable to consumers.
We need to evaluate our agricultural policies with particular concern for justice, especially towards the poor.

Food security is central to the economic, political and social future of our country. And this is why we should place meeting the basic needs of families at the top of everything we do.

The government has the obligation to intervene and regulate the economy, more especially the agricultural sector, in order to ensure adequate supplies of food, and also to ensure just remuneration for all those who labour to feed the nation.

Food is the most important element in any economy. The lack of adequate food is primarily the cause of the 45 per cent malnourished under-fives we are talking about. Consequently the arrangements to make food readily available to all people take very high priority in a well ordered society.
This problem, these challenges, won't disappear on their own. There is need to wage a struggle against malnutrition and hunger in general. We need to draw up plans so that we can meet the basic food needs of our people as much as possible.

We appreciate and exalt the work being done by Zambia Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance in creating an awareness of the inevitable need for profound socio-economic structural changes that are needed to address these problems. An immediate solution should be found for the acute deficit in foodstuffs in some parts of our country.

It should be clear to all of us that the solution to this and other serious problems facing our people lies in the elimination of underdevelopment, but a lot can be done right now. It is absolutely necessary to promote programmes that deal with the problem of malnutrition.

Whatever efforts are made today to protect our under-fives, to prevent their deaths and illness, to provide them with food, will shape the basic human qualities of that decisive percentage of the future population of our country. And we shouldn't forget that malnutrition is a phenomenon intimately associated with poverty, with the marked imbalances in our country, with the lack of opportunities, with ignorance, inequalities and injustice. And as long as malnutrition, poverty, hunger fail to be directly fought against, little will be achieved in improving the condition of our children, of our under-fives. A comprehensive approach is required to fight this situation