By Gladys Kalibbala
At about one-and-half years, Sebuliba got a severe malaria attack, which was never properly diagnosed and treated, leading to malnourishment. Although he had been introduced to other foods to supplement breast milk, he lost appetite. Around the same time, his mother abandoned him with his grandmother, cutting short his breastfeeding at a time he badly needed it. As the sickness intensified with convulsions, he stopped eating.
His grandmother had no money to buy him nutritious foods, which would have helped rejuvenate his weakened body. He ended up becoming severely malnourished and at six years, Sebuliba looked like a one-year-old baby. Regularly, his grandmother fed him on cold potatoes with dry tea, claiming his condition could not allow him eat hot food. He was permanently locked inside their small house.
His grandmother claimed he had refused to eat because of the acute convulsions he experienced for over five years. After Sebuliba’s story was published in the New Vision, a good Samaritan, Allan Mugisha, picked him up from his grandmother’s home in Bakka, Wakiso district and rushed him to Mengo Hospital where he was referred to Katalemwa Cheshire Home. Because of constant seizures and lying in the same position for long, a tissue had developed at the back of his leg joints. His arms had the same problem and his limbs could not stretch. A doctor at Mengo Hospital suggested
he goes to Katalemwa for surgery.
At Katalemwa, he was diagnosed with acute malnutrition and referred to Mwanamugimu Nutrition Unit, Mulago, where he was admitted in April 2007. He weighed 4kg at six years. Doctors said he also had cerebral palsy. Because Sebuliba’s grandmother had given up on him, she refused to look after him at Mwana Mugimu, which prompted Mugisha to employ a caretaker for him. Sebuliba’s new caretaker, Tabitha Nabawanuka, was like a mother to him.
She spent months at Mwana Mugimu where she learnt the proper nutrition interventions the unit offered. Back at his grandmother’s home, Nalongo fed Sebuliba on green vegetables, groundnuts, beans, eggs and fruits to make his life better. Unfortunately, doctors found out that he had a brain damage. With the Ekitobeero Nalongo has been preparing for him for some years, Sebuliba has improved and gained weight. His only challenge now is his inability to stand and walk on his own because there were no funds to take him to Katalemwa for the necessary physiotherapy
Nabawanuka making ekitoobero meal for Sebuliba
Reports from the ministry
Many children die before their first birthday
Reports from the Ministry of Health reveal that despite Uganda’s plentiful food supplies, over 12% of her children die before their first birthday because of malnutrition which triggers other diseases. It also shows that over 40% of Uganda’s population grapples with stunting in children on a daily basis.
The same report adds that more than 33% of Uganda’s children aged three years are small for their age, with insufficiently developed bones. By contrast, such a problem is only experienced by 2% of the global population. According to Dr Esther Babirekere of Mwana Mugimu Nutrition Unit at Mulago hospital, proper feeding starts with the pregnant mothers for a healthy baby. She says locally available and affordable foods like fruits (mangoes, pawpaws and pineapple); and vegetables (doodo, nakati, spinach, entula and cabbages could boost the nutrition of pregnant mothers and their babies without them having to spend a lot of money.
The mothers, Babirekere says, should also be encouraged to attend antenatal clinics where they are given iron and folic acid tablets for proper growth of their unborn babies. “Exclusive breastfeeding and later a balanced diet, which includes proteins(growth), vitamins (protective) and carbohydrates (energy givers) can do wonders,” she explains.
Julia Wamala, a nutritionist at Mwana Mugimu, notes that in many cases, it is not lack of food, but, lack of knowledge of which food and how to prepare it that aggravate the problem. “That is why, at Mwana mugimu, we train mothers on how to prepare food and within a few weeks they register changes in their children’s health,” Wamala explains
Statistics from the Ministry of Health 12% of Uganda’s children die before their first birthday because malnutrition triggers other diseases.
Over 40% of Uganda’s population grapples with child stunting on a daily basis.
33% of Uganda’s children at the age of three years are small for their age, with insufficiently developed bones