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Malnutrition: Plan to tackle the problem unveiled

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th March 2011 03:00 AM

THE number of stunted and malnourished children as well as mothers suffering from nutrition deficiency is likely to reduce in five-years. This is after the formulation of the plan that will guide the food and nutrition policy the Government approved in 2003.

THE number of stunted and malnourished children as well as mothers suffering from nutrition deficiency is likely to reduce in five-years. This is after the formulation of the plan that will guide the food and nutrition policy the Government approved in 2003.

By John Kasozi
THE number of stunted and malnourished children as well as mothers suffering from nutrition deficiency is likely to reduce in five-years. This is after the formulation of the plan that will guide the food and nutrition policy the Government approved in 2003.

The Uganda Nutrition Action Plan seeks to improve nutrition and reduce the number of maternal deaths by over 6,000, child deaths by over 16,000, and increase economic productivity by about sh130b per year.

Dr. Kisamba Mugerwa, the chairperson of the National Planning Authority, says the plan will focus on key nutritional areas for children and women of childbearing age over the next five years.

Mugwerwa was recently speaking at a nutrition workshop to address the slow progress in the reduction of malnutrition. The National Planning Authority together with the ministries of health and agriculture are behind the initiative.

Nutrition is critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in the eradication of hunger and poverty (MDG 1), ensuring universal primary education (MDG 2), reducing child mortality (MDG 4), improving maternal health (MDG 5) and fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria, among other diseases.

Background
There has been a reduction in malnutrition among children in Uganda over the past 15 years, but the changes have been slow. The price of malnutrition is still high. “Malnutrition is still among Uganda’s most fundamental challenges for human welfare and economic growth.

Uganda’s record of improving the nutrition of its young children is regrettable,” Kisamba says.
The previous three demographic health surveys show that nutrition indicators for young children and their mothers have not improved much over the past 15 years, with some indicators showing a worsening trend.

“In 1995, 45% of children under five years were found to be stunted or too short for their age. By 2006 the prevalence of stunted children under five had only fallen to 39% (about 2.3 million),” Kisamba explains.

“Much of the nutritional problems that women and children face in Uganda are hidden because most of those affected are moderately malnourished. Micronutrient deficiencies are similarly difficult to detect,” he stressed.

Vitamin A deficiency affects one out of five young children and women of childbearing age, resulting in poor resistance to infection, higher levels of illnesses and deaths.

Iron-deficiency (anaemia) affects three-quarters of children aged six to 59 months and half of women in the childbearing age. In addition, pregnancy complications, maternal death.

premature birth and low birth weight arise from iron deficiencies in women.
“Women of childbearing age, therefore, must receive proper nutrition so that when they are pregnant, they can nourish their children until the children are weaned,” Kisamba says.

Low birth weight is rampant in Uganda and over 16,000 children born with low birth weight (below 2.5kg) in 2009 died. In children, anaemia leads to a slow mental development, decreased physical activity and reduced resistance to diseases. Anaemia affects 49% of women.

Without intervention it is projected that about 15,000 mothers would die of anaemia-related causes by 2015. One in three of these deaths could be prevented if the coverage of iron supplementation among pregnant women is doubled.

Malnutrition: Plan to tackle the problem unveiled

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