By Felix Oketcho
In a bid to end skyrocketing malnutrition and poverty in Uganda, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have teamed up and officially launched five year programme aiming to achieve 2025 international targets on stunting and wasting on children under five years of age.
The programme also targets nutrition needs for adolescent girls, pregnant mothers and the elderly.
The Minister in Charge of General Duties in the office of the Prime Minister, Justine Kasule Lumumba officiated the launch of the event under the theme: ‘Fostering mult stakeholder involvement and investment in harnessing the growth of every child to reach their potential in the face of covid pandemic and beyond.’
Hunger Project International Regional Director Dr.Daise Kyomugasho said, “The right to grow dream is for every child to be able to reach full potential by 2030.”
Dr Kyomugasho noted that although Uganda experiences a substantial reduction in the prevalence of stunting from 45 % in 2000 to 29% in 2016, undernutrition in all its forms continues to be a development challenge.
“The causes are multidimensional; poor feeding and childcare practices, poverty and shortages nutritious and diversified foods, inadequate adaptation to climate change risks, poor sanitation and hygiene practices are still rampant in Uganda,” she stressed.
According to the World Bank report on the collection of development indicators, malnutrition threatens to destroy a generation of children in Uganda.
The report notes that more than one-third of all young children – 2.4 million – are stunted. ”The damage caused by stunting is irreversible. Half of the children under five and one-quarter of child-bearing-age women are anaemic,” report reveals.
Between 2013 and 2015, it is estimated that more than 500,000 young Ugandan children died. Of these deaths, nearly half were associated with undernutrition. Undernutrition is responsible for four in 10 deaths of children under five.
The 2012 study, Cost of Hunger in Uganda, estimated the health cost of children’s undernutrition-related illnesses (for those under five) to be more than UGX 525 billion, most of which was used for treating undernutrition and associated illnesses. It is also estimated that undernutrition costs Uganda 1.8 trillion UGX, an equivalent of 5.6 per cent of its GDP annually.
Food Rights Alliance Executive Director Agnes Kirabo applauded the funders saying the right to grow programme is a conviction that many stakeholders are working to recognise the value of the action to end hunger and malnutrition.
“Neglecting hunger and malnutrition is neglecting the people and national development. It is immoral to have children malnourished and millions going hungry in a country of plenty,” Kirabo said.
She however noted that the combined effects of malnutrition on health care costs and education due to grade repetition and reduction in productivity trap families in a vicious cycle of poverty.
It is estimated that the total cost of child undernutrition in Uganda is equivalent to a staggering 5.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product: UGX 1.86 trillion (US$ 899 million).