Adequate nutrition is essential in early childhood for normal growth and a healthy life. However, some developing countries are grappling with high prevalence of child acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. In Malawi, 37% of children under the age of five are stunted, and 3% are wasted. Levels of zinc and iron deficiencies are also high at 60% and 22%, respectively. This is besides the fact that only 8% of children receive complementary diets that meet minimum nutritional requirements. Cassava is a staple food in the districts of Nkhata Bay and Nkhotakota, where well over 79% of households rely on it. Consequently, cassava flour is used to prepare complementary porridge. Such porridge is often of poor nutritive value, and has negative sensory and functional attributes. Frequent consumption of cassava-based complementary porridge may exacerbate child malnutrition, unless enriched adequately. Enrichment of cassava-based complementary porridge would require a detailed documentation of complementary feeding practices, with a special focus on how cassava is used in complementary feeding. The enrichment process would further require documentation and selection of nutrient-dense foods that are easily accessible to most households. Animal-source foodstuffs and legumes need to be among the selected foods as they provide the much-needed macronutrients and micronutrients. Inclusion of animal-source foodstuffs might also result in increased content of important minerals such as iron and zinc. Evaluation of the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc in enriched porridge and other similar products would help in the refinement of the product towards high bioaccessibility of these minerals. A sensory evaluation of the complementary porridge would measure its acceptability and provide clues on how to improve the product. Overall, such a systematic approach may result in a product that meets nutritional requirements, and one that has acceptable sensory and functional attributes.
Date of publication:
RUFORUM Working document series