As part of its annual series, Ugandans Making a Difference, New Vision will, until October 3, publish articles on individuals and organisations that have dedicated their efforts to fighting malnutrition in the country. The articles will highlight the causes, discuss solutions and recognise the efforts of those working to avert malnutrition. Today, MARIA WAMALA brings you the views from legislators on what should be done to solve the problem that affects up to 54% of children under the age of 18 in Uganda.
JOSEPH SEWUNGU MP KALUNGU
The problem is that our budgeting is giving little to agriculture. Most children stay home and many youth who would be tilling land are in the urban cities ridding boda bodas. The land is available but the people to till it are migrating to the urban centres. Let the Government address rural urban migration. The Government should also attract unemployed youth into agriculture so that we deal with low supply of food. People are not growing food and that is why they have nothing to eat.
BETTY NAMBOOZE MP MUKONO MUNICIPALITY
Let us deal with poverty first. Families are living on a bare minimum, that is why the children and even adults are poorly fed. They can afford to sacrifice the little food in the house, sell it and get money to make ends meet. Also, mothers should be educated on healthy feeding.
ANNE AURU, WOMAN MP, MOYO
Things work best when there is a law in place. But we have no law on food and nutrition. As MPs on forum for children, we want to come up with a law on nutrition.
We are still consulting so that the draft bill is developed and then we shall discuss it before it is tabled. It should be as soon as possible, probably after the budget we shall embark on it seriously.
EDDIE KWIZERA MP BUFUMBIRA COUNTY
In the past, there used to be agricultural extension services. This involved teaching people what to grow for sale; what to grow for food security and what to grow to improve nutrition. In the past, there used to be agricultural extension services. This involved teaching people what to grow for sale; what to grow for food security and what to grow to improve nutrition.
Agriculture also used to have a department for nutrition, but it is no more.
Agriculture is not given the seriousness it deserves. It has now been shifted to only making money that is why there is a talk of commercialising agriculture even when people have no food.They are now producing foods with almost no nutritional value. Foods like bananas, cassava, maize, potataoes, yams, vegetables and fruits have a lot of nutritional value, but not many people are growing them. If people grow vegetables and fruits at home, scenarios of children feeding on cassava and tea without milk will end and their performance at school will improve.
People should stop early consumption of alcohol. Instead of spending on food they spend all the money in bars and pork, and leave no coin for food at their homes. If the bar visits are reduced, family heads will save enough to buy nutritious foods for their homes.
ELIJAH OKUPA MP SERERE
Even if the law is in place, without the political will to implement it, children will remain malnourished. In Karamoja, people are dying of malnutrition yet there is a lot of food in other parts of the country. For example, there is plenty of milk in the western Uganda, but no infrastructure to let people in Karamoja access it. It is a question of political will. Parents and the Government should provide food for children at school. Parents should be sensitised on their core duty to provide for the children. They relax because they think it’s the Government’s duty
MEDARD BITEKEREZO, MP MBARARA
We should sensitise the public on feeding for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their new-borns. Family planning is important. If you give birth every year you are going to starve these children. If a leader is against family planning, I do not support him. He will only be failing his own people. We should intensify the services of health inspectors and health assistants, who in the past used to educate people on nutrition and health matters at local level. People are just ignorant, the land is there, but they are not tilling it. The law is not the problem. The problem is the attitude and ignorance.
MARY NALUBEGA WORKERS MP
The concerned ministries health and gender should take the lead. Mothers should be sensitised on how to feed the children well. As a workers MP, I know for sure mothers are finding it hard to breastfeed their children as they should. To balance the equation, day-care centres at workplaces are crucial, if employers are committed to a healthy future generation.
In Tanzania, breastfeeding mothers are given an hour to breastfeed. While the rest go for lunch at 1:00pm, for lunch a breastfeeding mother breaks off at noon to allow her breastfeed for an hour and have her lunch. We can also adopt that to be fair to our children and the mothers. For the men, the money spent in the bars should be redirected to buying nutritious foods for the family. Nowadays, it is the mothers battling to see that the children are feeding well. Even the little food the mother grows to feed her children, the man comes and sells it off and the money is taken to the bar.
KENNETH OMONA, MP KABERAMAIDO ,CHAIRPERSON HEALTH COMMITTEE
Community nutrition and provision of food in school are important. Children use break and lunch time to go to the bushes and hunt for wild fruits. Parents do not pack food for them neither does the school provide. Many school children wake up; go to the garden and dig, then run to school without breakfast.
Many people do not know that breakfast is the most important meal. Imagine this child could have taken his last meal at 6:00pm the previous day. Nutrition education at community and national levels should be intensified, just like HIV and malaria information has been disseminated. It is a preventive approach. If a child eats balanced diet because chances of visiting the hospital are reduced. When you visit National Medical Stores (NMS), you would wish that is a food store because food is the first medicine. If we are feeding well we shall not need all the drugs in the NMS.
We should work towards reducing consumption of medicine and increase on the consumption of food. There should be a by-law to ensure that every family has a food store to ensure food security. In the past, it was
mandatory to have a granary and one would only access the granary with permission from the chief.
CHRISTINE ACAYO, WOMAN MP NEBBI
We definitely need a legal framework through which information on nutrition and mother’s feeding is given. For example, here in Kampala you find a rich mother packing chips, chicken and soda for a child at school, instead of making fresh fruit juice or water, milk, boiled egg and wheat bread. Parents pack junk instead of organic natural foods.
Village women are giving extra care to their men than the children to win their love giving less attention to the children. The serve cold food to the children, but always serve fresh food to their husbands. We should have a structure that is integrated in the health system so that when mothers go to hospitals they are taught. The present health village teams should be empowered with this kind of information
Do you know any individual or organisation focusing efforts on improving nutrition in communities? Write to the Features Editor, P.O. Box 9815 Kampala or e-mail email@example.com giving name, telephone contact of nominee and reasons for nomination. Type food, the nominee’s name and SMS to 8338