By Ismael Kasooha in Kibaale
DESPITE the fact that Kibaale district is a food basket in the region, it is still grappling with malnutrition with 39% of the children falling victim out of the 154,000 children under the age of 5.
It sounds strange but true that a district which has the most fertile soils that support the growth of all kinds of crops continues to be haunted by malnutrition.
Statistics from the Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2011 revealed that Western region (Kibaale inclusive) has 44% of the children malnourished only behind Karamoja region which stands at 46% as the highest in the country.
As Uganda makes important strides in attaining the 8 millennium development goals, experts warn that this may not translate into improved health for the people.
Adequate nutrition is a prerequisite for human and socio-economic well-being but malnutrition still ravages the country affecting millions of people in various ways but mostly affecting women and children.
Malnutrition also impairs educational achievements and economic productivity costing the government of Uganda and families enormous amounts of money to treat related illnesses.
This means that over 60,000 pupils in Kibaale will not be performing well in class in Kibaale district and their economic productivity will remain low.
“Our people can access all food stuffs required for a balanced diet but lack information to make use of them,” said district chairman Goerge William Namyaka while presiding over Kibaale District Nutrition Fair held at Kagadi Freedom Grounds.
He said that it is disheartening to see that Kibaale district which feeds other districts continues to be engulfed in malnutrition.
Namyaka called upon the public to promote good nutrition at house level to avert malnutrition.
“We should not wait for people from America to tell us about good feeding yet we can rescue the situation ourselves,” said Namyaka.
He said that the district is in the process of introducing compulsory vegetable gardens to supplement on food available for the households.
But women who spoke during the fair said that men always want to eat nutritious foods without considering them and the children.
RECO's Brian Rwabwogo said the malnutrition problem has been heightened by farmers turning original food crops into cash crops. Photo by Ismael Kasooha
Men want to eat well and most of the nutritious foods are reserved for men yet women and children also need them, said Juliet Birungi one of the breasting feeding mothers at the fair.
The nutrition fair that ran under the theme ‘Nutrition For Better Health’ aimed at raising awareness about the dangers posed by malnutrition, engage communities and the audience in candid public conversation on salient issues on nutrition and show case the different steps taken in fighting malnutrition.
Dr. Dan Kyamanywa the district health officer for Kibaale said district is mostly hit by anaemia in children affecting 49% of the children, stuntedness affects 44%, underweight 20% and wasted where 5% of the children are affected.
“We should not be getting food supplements as a district because whatever is required in the body is readily available here,” said Kyamanywa.
Brian Rwabwogo the chief of party USAID/Uganda Production for Improved Nutrition Project said that the problem has been aggravated by the conversion of the original food crops to cash crops and the need for money by households.
“Our people have turned the original food crops into cash crops and want money to meet other needs leading to the selling off of all nutritious foods,” said Rwabwogo.
Rwabwogo said that USAID through RECO industries limited has embarked on a countrywide campaign in 62 districts to raise awareness about the dangers posed by malnutrition to all Ugandans particularly children, pregnant and breast feeding women and people living with HIV/AIDS.
He said that districts in the country need to integrate nutrition issues in all activities so that expenditure on treatment of preventable diseases is reduced.
“If the country does not prioritize on improvement of nutrition, we shall continue to spend huge sums of money on treating such preventable diseases,” said Rwabwogo.
The production for improved nutrition project is funded by USAID Uganda and implemented by local food manufacturer RECO industries limited currently supplying therapeutic and supplementary foods to hospitals and health centre IVs.
The health fair function brought together local government officials, implementing partners, nutrition focal people who exchanged best practices and ideas related to nutrition.