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The Nutrition and Food Security Alliance of Namibia (NAFSAN) says 600 children die from malnutrition-related deaths annually.

Forty malnutrition-related deaths under the age of five have been reported in the Omaheke Region in the past four months.

The deaths were recorded at health facilities in Omaheke between December last year and March this year.

The Director of NAFSAN said this while addressing the media engagement on Namibia's Nutrition and Food Security Crisis in Windhoek.

Ben Schernick says the alarming levels of malnutrition, not only in Omaheke, show the need for Namibia to focus on both food and nutrition security seriously.

"You can imagine that as a mother, you will have to cook cardboard boxes to feed your children. I remember two to three years ago during the drought when farmers were giving them to their livestock because they did not have the feed, but taking it to the level of feeding children was quite shocking. We see a trend that is increasing, and sometimes it is difficult to get to that data."

Findings from the Cost of Hunger Analysis in Namibia indicate that addressing malnutrition must be a national priority because of the social problems and adverse economic consequences associated with it.

He says the Namibia Demographic and Health Survey indicates that 24% of children are underdeveloped, which causes repetition in school.

The children achieve 14% less in school education, and the annual costs of malnutrition are estimated at N$11.1 billion, which is 5.2% of the country's GDP.

A family of five needs to spend at least N$3,130 per month on food alone to meet their minimal nutritional requirements.

However, this is far from reality in many Namibian homes, especially in rural areas.

NAFSAN raises awareness about nutrition and food security-related matters, and the organisation suggested five interventions to tackle malnutrition in the country.

These are backyard gardens, unconditional basic income, focusing on and investing in effective coordination, using the sugar tax to invest in nutrition, and mainstreaming 'Nutrition for Health'.

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Selima Henock