By Andrew Masinde
Jane Akello almost lost her daughter in the camp due to malnutrition and hunger. “We did not have enough food yet I had seven children to feed. Their father disappeared during the war. At some point we had to go without food for days.
“The children were starving leading to frequent ailments. I tried visiting local health units, but very little changed until Hunger Fighters Uganda (HFUG) came to our rescue.
HF-UG is a non-governmental organisation that was established in 2008 by participants of the Hunger in the 21st Century, a World Food Programme (WFP) and Continuing Agriculture Education Centre (CAEC) course at Makerere University. The course focused on the causes, effects, and possible responses to hunger.
HF-UG is engaged in fighting hunger in all communities of Uganda, especially where people are most vulnerable to hunger to ensure food security at local, national and global level.
“They monitored the food distribution process and encouraged us to engage in small-scale farming, which greatly improved our lives. I now grow mushrooms and other foods and I have enough for my family,” Akello says.
Like Akello, many people in Uganda are chronically undernourishment, leading to high mortality rates.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that out of the world’s 7.1 billion people, 870 million suffered chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012.Of these, 852 million live in developing countries (FAO 2012).It is estimated that over nine million people, five million of these children, die worldwide every year because of hunger and malnutrition, which leads to the direct medical cost of $30b each year.
“The effects of hunger are evident in the high mortality rates among children and related effects such as stunted growth and maternal mortality.
In the face of all this, HFUG was inevitable given the changing trends in nationalpostand global food security situations and the rapid spread of global hunger,” Emmanuel Aturinde, the organisation’s executive director, explains.
Aturinde says the organisation promotes household food security, health and nutrition, community outreach, behavioural change and sustainable environmental protection.
HF-UG coordinates hunger awareness activities through food production and diversification programmes at local and national level, through research, advocacy and capacity development for the vulnerable and marginalised people.“We promote food security and nutritional health as well as giving humanitarian assistance to refugees, displaced people and those in the disaster affected areas through creating environmental conservation awareness.
“We also offer critical focus on hidden hunger that result from micronutrient deficiencies by reaching out to beneficiary communities. We adopt a multidisciplinary and non-judgmental approach to eradicate hunger with the aim of contributing to social development,” Christine Namukasa, a nutritionist and head of research, says.
WHAT THE ORGANISATION DOES
The organisation implements food security and nutrition programmes that benefit communities in various districts of Uganda including Hoima, Isingiro, Kyegegwa, Kiryandongo, Kampala, Nakasongola, Tororo, Karamoja, Mbarara and Kibaale.
As Uganda is blessed with fertile soils, the organisation encourages the communities to increase food production through crop and animal production.
“Apart from food availability, food security also involves people’s ability to access and utilise the available food, which makes nutritional health realistic.
The organisation engages communities in diet diversification through vegetable production. This, Namukasa says, they do through teaching them the benefits of locally available foods and engaging them in participatory garden planning for food production. They also engage in advocacy activities to create awareness and cause nutrition-based policies and carry out research on the nutrition values of local foods.
The organisation also provides humanitarian assistance. “Hunger affects every community, every individual irrespective of status; we developed a strategy to save lives through promoting agriculture, disaster mitigation, capacity strengthening and livelihood support to reduce hunger and malnutrition,” she says.
“This we can achieve through supporting livelihood initiatives to mitigate food insecurity and malnutrition among the refugees, the disaster affected and the internally displaced people.
We work with the communities and other agencies to support refugees,” Namukasa explains. She adds that they have been able to monitor the distribution of food aid in five refugee settlements of south-western Uganda. They have also managed to empower the affected communities to respond to disasters.
The organisation also implemented a food basket monitoring (FBM) and postdistribution programme in partnership with the WFP. The project is being implemented in the refugee settlements of Nakivale and Oruchinga in Isingiro district, south-western Uganda; Kyaka II in Kyegegwa district, Kyangwali in Hoima district; and Kiryandongo in Kiryandongo district, under the refugee support programme. It benefits 16, 544 refugees in 33 food delivery points.
It also runs a food basket monitoring project that weighs the food items which the beneficiaries received at the food delivery points.
The FBM ensures that the beneficiaries receive the right amount of food and assesses the beneficiaries’ level of satisfaction, the perceptions and the challenges. The organisation introduced post distribution,which is conducted every two weeks after the food distribution.
How the organisation operates
The organisation mobilises the communities and stakeholders to champion the campaign by teaching others the causes of hunger and malnutrition. To achieve this, they run monthly hunger and malnutrition awareness campaigns on radio stations.
They also establish food security committees to monitor and spearhead the anti-hunger and food insecurity initiatives, in addition to enhancing food security infrastructure in Bunyoro region through promotion of granaries.
They emphasise school feeding as a vital requirement in Education and human development.
To achieve their objectives, they work with other organisation like Child Nutrition Youth Coalition Uganda, DENIVA,Hoima NGO Forum and the Food Rights Alliance.
HF-UG also works with the UN-WFP, World Vision, Norwegian Refugee Council and Office of the Prime Minister.
“Our dream is to have all humanity enjoy the God-given gifts to their fullness, especially food and all the resources that are available to help in producing it,” Aturinde says.
Climate Change School Outreach Programme in the Mount Elgon region, Hunger and Learning Project and School Feeding Debates, Establishment of a Demonstration Farm in Kibaale district, Refugees Self-reliance project through hidden hunger response innovations and Karamoja hidden hunger response project.