CIVIL Society Scaling Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) says government’s lack of commitment to allocate more resources towards enhancing nutrition will lead to a reversal of the gains that have been made.

According to the presentation made to the Parliamentary Budget Committee, CSO-SUN recommended that government should increase the nutrition budget lines for key line ministries and match nutrition donor funding, among others.

“From the perspective of CSO-SUN and partners, the question to be asked is whether the 2021 budget lives up to its theme, in particular – ‘Build Resilience to Safeguard Livelihoods and Protect the Vulnerable.’ As it relates to nutrition, priority has not been given, and we see a reversal in the progress that was being made on this issue. We, therefore, recommend the following: Availability and ease of access to budget information on nutrition in key line ministries. Challenges in accessing this information hamper timely analysis and accountability to ensuring that Zambia achieves adequate food security and nutrition for all. Ensure financial commitment of ZMW400 per under-five child per year. Increase nutrition budget lines for key line ministries. Match nutrition donor funding (Donors have invested over US $112 million for the next four years, poor funding by government shows lack of prioritisation),” CSO-SUN stated.

They added that government should also increase the budgetary allocation to the School Feeding Programme to improve school attendance and nutrition outcomes.

“Support crop diversification to promote production of food that meets the dietary needs for the population (E-voucher and distribution of diverse seeds); increase the budgetary allocation to the National Food and Nutrition Commission to strengthen nutrition coordination; increase the budgetary allocation to the School Feeding Programme to improve school attendance & nutrition outcomes,” it stated.

It also expressed concern over the downward trend in allocations to the key nutrition budget lines.

“Starting in 2017, CSO-SUN observed a notable downward trend in allocations to the key nutrition specific lines, this despite the importance of the interventions. The intervention included; i) Management of Moderate and Severe Malnutrition; ii) Infant and Young Child Feeding; iii) Growth Monitoring and Promotion and iv) Micronutrient programme. Starting in 2020, information on these four critical interventions was no longer made available in the Yellow Book. In fact, from a search of the 2021 Yellow Book, the word nutrition only appears a total of 8 times and the growth monitoring is mentioned in passing only once,” it revealed.

CSO-SUN added that next year’s budget maintained the 2020 allocation towards the school feeding programmes despite the rise in inflation, which had shot up to 15.7 per cent last month.

“The 2021 budget speech makes no mention of School Feeding Programmes in contrast to it being highlighted as a priority in the last two years. For this analysis, it is actually noted that the budget line remains K852,126, an amount similar to the 2020 allocation (given inflation – this implies it has reduced in real terms). This despite the withdrawal of partners like the World Food Programme, who were providing financial support to the programme, raising concern about sustainable continuity,” stated CSO-SUN.