For children under 3 years the prevalence of underweight was 15.5% in 1994. Some 21.4% of the children were stunted and 5.5% wasted. Children living in rural areas seemed to have a greater risk for underweight and stunting then their urban counterparts. The prevalence of underweight ranged from 7.1% in Bulawayo to 24% in Matabeleland North. The prevalence of wasting ranged from 1.9% in Mashonaland East to 9.8% in Matabeleland North. Matabeleland North, known to be dry and drought prone also exhibited the highest prevalence of stunting (28.5%). The distributions of underweight, wasting and stunting coincide with the exception of the provinces Mashonaland Central and Matabeleland South, which show a greater risk for stunting than for wasting and underweight.

Since the last 10 years the prevalence of underweight has deteriorated. Especially troubling is the proportion of severely underweight. Several intervention programmes seem to have had a positive effect on the prevalence of stunting. Despite the reduction in the prevalence of stunting in the two DHS surveys, it is still considered a problem. The prevalence of wasting rose considerably from DHS 1988 to DHS 1994, probably due to severe droughts between these two surveys.

Pattern of malnutrition in children and adults do not appear to overlap. A study carried out 1992 showed very little moderate to severe chronic energy deficiency (1,6% male and 3.1% females), however 5.6% of the men and 17.4% of the women were overweight and obese. Moreover, while 5% of the women between 15 and 49 years studied in the DHS survey had a BMI below 18.5, 21.5 % of the nonpregnant women were overweight and obese . Women in urban areas have the highest risk of overweight. The rise in the prevalence of overweight is accompanied by an increasing trend of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases seem to be related to unhealthy lifestyles and changes in eating habits coupled with a high fat, sugar and salt intake. Infections (tuberculose and malaria but most important HIV/AIDS), seem to be the main health threats for adults.

The fact that childhood malnutrition persists coinciding with an onset of adult obesity suggests that the principal problem in households in Zimbabwe might not be household food security but insufficient sanitation and inadequate health care services. Furthermore, inadequate intake of food, unfavourable patterns of infant feeding and the burden of repeated infections (mainly Acute Respiratory Infections) and diseases (diarrhoea) pose young children at a special risk of malnutrition.

Micronutrient deficiencies represent significant health problems in Zimbabwe especially, iron, vitamin A and B-vitamins, particularly niacin. The results of a study in 1997 in four provinces (Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Matabeleland North and South) showed that 33% of pregnant women, 29.6% of lactating women and 17.6% of pre-school children and 16.5% of adult males had haemoglobin levels between 11 and 9 g/dl. In 1991, a vitamin A survey in Matabeleland North Province reported 0.6% of children from 6 months to 6 years with nightblindness and 0.2% with vitamin A-related corneal scars. A targeted vitamin A supplementation programme for all measles cases was initiated through UNICEF funding.

Due to Universal Salt Iodisation in 1995, IDD has been eliminated. It was a major public health problem in 1988, when the National Goitre Survey reported a national Visible Goitre Rate of 3.7%, while the Total Goitre Rate was 42.3%. However, most likely due to poor monitoring of the quality of salt, the incidence of thyrotoxicosis increased about 2-fold in all ages between 1991 and 1995.

© FAO 2010