The alarm was raised at the weekend by the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender and Children, Dr. Faustine Ndugulile, at a panel discussion held at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro.
Dr. Ndugulile noted that previously many of the cases reported in hospitals were communicable diseases whereby a patient would stay fit for sometime after treatment before going back to the hospital.
“However, now we’re witnessing an increase of non-communicable diseases whose patients will depend on treatment and medicine for the rest of their lives,” he said, citing diabetes, hypertension, renal and kidney failures as among diseases whose costs for treatment are very high.
“About a thousand patients suffering from these diseases cost the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) about 3.5 bn/- a year. This even threatens the sustainability of the fund,” he pointed out.
A kidney transplant at the Muhimbili National Hospital costs about 21m/- with dialysis for a patient whose kidneys have failed also costing large sums of money every week that the majority of the people cannot afford.
“The focus is now on how to prevent people from getting into this situation by promoting healthy diets and lifestyles. This is the gist of our discussion today,” the deputy minister underlined.
Dr Ndugulile, a medical doctor himself, noted that Tanzania on the other hand has cases of under-nutrition, caused by a diet lacking in sufficient nutrients that the body needs for good health as well as by disease. Poor childcare and low feeding, poor sanitation and low access to health services and clean water are also major causes of disease.
He threw a challenge to SUA professors, researchers, students and others stakeholders in attendance to find out the factors behind the trend so that a lasting solution could be found.
The panel discussion was part of activities to mark the 2019 World Food Day with the theme ‘Our Actions Our Future. Healthy Diets for A Zero Hunger World,’ jointly organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and SUA.
On his side, Deputy Minister for Agriculture Omary Mgumba, who presided over the event as Chief Guest on behalf of minister Japhet Hasunga, noted that the government has taken several measures to address the challenge.
“As you have heard, the country is food sufficient by over 120 per cent and it’s astonishing to see that regions leading in terms of food production are also leading in malnutrition cases,” he pointed out.
The deputy minister mentioned the Agriculture Sector Development Programme (ASDP) Phase Two as a key pillar for addressing issues around agriculture, including food and nutrition security.
In his remarks, the FAO Representative to Tanzania, Fred Kafeero, introduced the 2019 World Food Day and its theme, key and messages that he said were all timely, “bearing in mind the challenges that Tanzania was facing as explained by the deputy ministers.”
“However, zero Hunger does not only mean the absence of hunger but also all forms of malnutrition through the promotion of healthy diets and lifestyles,” he said.
“This year World Food Day calls for action to get back on track towards achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 with healthy diets in mind.”
He said that the panel discussion was part of a series of activities aimed at bringing together partners and stakeholders to share ideas on how this goal can be achieved through collective efforts.
“This is testimony that the world is increasingly faced with challenges related to food and nutrition security as populations grow,” he stated.
The good news is that affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition, but they require greater global and local commitment and action.
With concerted efforts among all stakeholders, through healthy diets and lifestyles Tanzania can achieve zero hunger by 2030, he declared.
World Food Day is marked each year on 16th October to promote worldwide awareness and action for elimination of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Events are organized starting a week earlier in over 130 countries, making it one of the most engaging days of the UN calendar.
Here in Tanzania events were held across the country with national level activities being held in Singida, presided over by the Minister for Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga.