TOP

Sweet potatoes, beans perform miracles for Buyende children

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd October 2013 02:09 PM

When one-and-half-year-old Yovani Bagirewa became vulnerable to frequent disease attacks, the first thing his parents thought about was witchcraft because of the land wrangles they were involved in with the neighbours.

2013 10largeimg202 oct 2013 110936193 703x422

When one-and-half-year-old Yovani Bagirewa became vulnerable to frequent disease attacks, the first thing his parents thought about was witchcraft because of the land wrangles they were involved in with the neighbours.

By Owen Wagabaza
New Vision will, until October 3, publish articles on individuals and organisations that have dedicated their efforts to fighting malnutrition in the country, a problem that affects up to 54% of children under 18 in Uganda.


When one-and-half-year-old Yovani Bagirewa became vulnerable to frequent disease attacks, the first thing his parents thought about was witchcraft because of the land wrangles they were involved in with the neighbours.

They visited shrine after shrine for divine healing, but the condition only deteriorated. “We were in and out of hospital; hardly three days would go by without Yovani falling sick. He lost appetite, developed diarrhoea and a high temperature and lost weight,” the boy’s mother, Shamim Kafuko, 18, says. She adds that he developed reddish-bluish spots on the skin, his eyes bulged outwards and was in severe pain.


“The legs were so sensitive that a slight touch would make him scream,” Kafuko narrates. It was at this time that they rushed him to Kamuli Hospital where he was diagnosed with measles and other related illnesses and given treatment. The parents were then advised to give him foods rich in vitamin A to boost his immunity.

Since then, Yovani has been doing well. Brian Muwanguzi, a father of three, says he used to spend over sh5,000 every week to treat his children, but since he started feeding his family with sweet potatoes and beans distributed by VEDCO, he
takes months without taking them for treatment. These and many more are the success stories told in by residents of Bukokoba village, Buyende district about the Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO).

VEDCO is an indigenous NGO established in 1986 after the war to avert the high rates of hunger in Luwero. The organisation’s objective was to support households with agricultural knowledge and inputs. The organisation has since expanded to 11 districts.

What does VEDCO do

Emmanuel Kasulubedde, the Buyende district project coordinator, says VEDCO collaborates with Harvest Plus to improve on people’s nutrition by providing free bio-fortified food crops to the rural poor.

This was after a 2007 research by Harvest Plus, a global leader in crop bio-fortification, found out there were high rates of iron and Vitamin A deficiency among the poor communities in Africa and South East Asia. “Vitamin A and iron are mostly found in fruits, vegetables, and animal products that are not available to the rural poor whose daily diet consists mostly of foods such as cassava and sweet potatoes,” Kasulubedde explains.

He adds that together with Harvest Plus, we work to reduce malnutrition by providing micronutrients directly through the staple foods. In Buyende, Kasulubedde says they are providing free vines for the orange sweet potatoes that are rich in Vitamin A and high iron beans called Roba 1. “Our target is mostly children under five years and pregnant and nursing mothers since they are the most vulnerable,” Kasulubedde says.

To achieve their goal, VEDCO also trains communities in value addition. “We train them to make pancakes, mandazi, chapati, cakes, crisps and juice from sweet potatoes as well as samosas from Roba 1, a type of bean rich in iron,” Kasulubedde says. He adds that they also disseminate information to the communities through music and drama. The group members compose the songs and plays with messages highlighting the importance of vitamin A, iron and nutritious diet.


Other services

Furthermore, Kasulubedde says they offer free advice to members in many aspects such as pre-planting of orange sweet potatoes and Roba 1 iron rich beans, pests and disease control. In addition, vine conservation and multiplication, post-harvest handling, market and product development, importance of vitamin A and iron, as well as recommended feeding practices for children, pregnant and nursing mothers, plus hygiene and sanitation practices.


“Even if you take a highly nutritious diet when the hygiene and sanitation is poor, there will be no progress,” Kasulubedde says. To improve on the members’ welfare, VEDCO also buys the sweet potatoes vines from the farmers, hence improving on their income.

Vitamin A deficiency

According to a study published in August 2012 by the International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI, Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health concern in poor countries and accounts for more than 600,000 deaths among children under five years of age annually.


In Africa, Vitamin A deficiency prevalence is estimated at 42% among children below five years. Uganda, the report says, is
among the African countries reported to be at a high risk, with 28% of children and 23% of women with vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A defi ciency impairs immunity and causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and even death. Annually, up to 500,000 preschool children go blind from the deficiency, while about two-thirds die within a month of going blind

true
Malnutrition in Uganda

Under nutrition not only hinders normal growth among children but also has long term costly effects both to the Government and the workforce. In 2009, there were about 1.6 million additional clinical episodes associated with under-nutrition in children under fi ve years, which a cost the Government sh525b.

In the same year, about 943 million working hours were lost due to absenteeism from work as a result of nutritionrelated ill-health and deaths. This represents sh657b, which is equivalent to 2.1% of the country’s GDP



 

Sweet potatoes, beans perform miracles for Buyende children

Related Articles

More From The Author

Related articles