Nine-month-old Lochoroâ€™s arms have reduced to the size of a stick. His eyes are sunken and the skin scaly and pale. Lochoro weighs only 3kg, 9kg less than the normal weight for his age. When he cries, his ribs stick out and he looks so weak.
For about two weeks, Lochoro has been fighting for his life at Matany Hospital in Moroto district, Karamoja region. â€œI thought he was suffering from malaria, but when the doctor examined him, he said he was malnourished,â€ says Helen Nakiru, his mother.
The Matany Hospital medical superintendant, Dr. James Lemukol, says the boy suffers from severe malnutrition and anaemia. â€œWe had to treat anaemia and also feed him on nutritious food. His was a case of delayed emergency,â€ Lemukol adds.
Lemukol says the hospital receives over 600 cases of malnutrition annually.
â€œThis ranges from moderate to acute malnutrition. In moderate malnutrition, the victims suffer from starvation, while in acute, it is a combination of diseases and malnutrition.
â€œMalnutrition is the topmost killer of people, especially children below five years, in Karamoja,â€ he says.
According to the Moroto district health officer, Dr. Michael Ebele, Karamoja is faced with famine.
People have resigned to this fate and think malnutrition is normal.
Records at Matany Hospital show that over the last three years, about 54% of the children admitted died.
â€œIn 2008/2009, over 453 children were admitted at the hospital. Of these, 72 died, 358 recovered, six did not improve, while 17 escaped,â€ Dr. Lemukol says.
He says some children are taken away by relatives after losing hope.
A September 2008 food assessment report by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Karamoja shows that over 1.13 million people in the region are faced with hunger.
The report also showed that acute malnutrition in Moroto stood at 12.7%.
Lemukol says most of the children are admitted at the hospital in critical condition.
Ebele says lack of enough health facilities and a poor transport system in the region have exacerbated the problem.
Matany has set up a nutrition centre to feed malnourished children.
According to Bai Mankay Sankoh, WFPâ€™s head of Moroto sub-office, currently, WFP supplies food to over 100,000 moderately malnourished people and to over 20,000 severely malnourished.
Karamoja children severely malnourished