Improving micronutrients in commonly used complementary foods for young children

Improving micronutrients in commonly used complementary foods for young children

Malnutrition is still a problem in many countries particularly in Africa. It is estimated that 47 million children under the age of five are stunted in sub Saharan Africa whereas in eastern and southern Africa the figure stand at 24 million. Micronutrient deficiencies of vitamin A, iron and iodine are also of public health concern in the whole African region.

“Tanzania is the 3rd last on stunting in sub-Saharan Africa where stunting affects 34.7% of children fewer than five years of age national wide,” stated Hope Masanja in a recent interview.

She is currently undertaking a master’s degree in Human Nutrition at Sokoine University of Agriculture. Her program is administered by RUFORUM through the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) – a major Feed the Future project funded by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID). Her research study is focusing on the contribution of fish in improving micronutrients contents for commonly used complementary foods for children aged 6-23 months. Her study is conducted in Lindi at Mchinja word under the supervision of Dr.Theresia Jumbe and Ms. Renatha Pacitic both from the Department of Food Technology, Nutrition and Consumer Services (DFTNCS), SUA.

Hope says “Before joining iAGRI I worked for Save the Children International in lindi, the project aimed at improving children’s lives that’s where I saw a big number of children under five years old stunted in villages while one of the households livelihood activity is fishing. Therefore I’m just trying to check on what is happening, do children really consume fish? if yes why are they still stunting, do the fish based complement foods have an adequate amount of micronutrients?” she explained.

Hope is very optimistic that her data will play a vital contribution for proper growth of children hence reducing micronutrient deficiencies. Furthermore, Hope is very grateful for an iAGRI scholarship and other extra programs hosted by iAGRI in collaboration with SUA with aim of enhancing capacity building of students. Through capacity building programs she has gained advanced skills and knowledge in data management, analysis and presentation. As one of many experienced graduates supported by the iAGRI project, Hope can now apply the acquired knowledge in handling the qualitative data since majority of the data collected for her research are in qualitative.

Apart from those benefits she recalls to have faced some challenges in accessing books “most of the books present in the library are outdated, and other books in the internet demand payments or membership so sometimes it’s hard to just swim in the internet till you get the required information but all in all life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are”.

As Hope explained ‘’despite such challenges the iAGRI scholarship has made me comprehend my dream in academia in fact my masters degree will add to my previous undergraduate research at SUA where I did Bachelor of Science of Family and Consumer Science from 2012 -2015.”

Hope is at the final stage of her research, in future she intends to work with the food processing industry and non-government organization in Tanzania so as to facilitate access to enough nutritious food towards reduction in stunting, decreasing child hunger and promote global prosperity and stability.