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Hunger Triggers Malnutrition In Children At Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Hunger Triggers Malnutrition In Children At Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement

Dr. Felix Ejesu, the Deputy Health Manager International Rescue Committee (IRC) at Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement, says that already 482 malnutrition cases have been recorded among children below 5 years this quarter alone.
Kids eat poridge in Bweyale Town Council, Kiryandongo District recently.

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Many vulnerable families in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Yumbe district are starving due to the growing food crisis, with children under 5 years paying the heaviest price of malnutrition. Health workers in Yumbe are warning that the food crisis could leave thousands of children in the refugee settlement at risk of malnourishment and even death.

Dr. Felix Ejesu, the Deputy Health Manager International Rescue Committee (IRC) at Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement, says that already 482 malnutrition cases have been recorded among children below 5 years this quarter alone. He notes that 11 children under the age of five years and four under six months were admitted as a result of severe malnutrition last month. 

According to Dr. Ejesu, the lack of food among refugees especially breastfeeding mothers has seen an increase in cases of acute malnutrition among children compared to last year.

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Dr. Ejesu says two children have so far died from acute malnutrition this quarter and notes that the situation is likely to escalate if no preventive measures are put in place.

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He notes that the food crisis remains the biggest contributor to malnutrition cases and called on the World Food Program (WFP) and other partners involved in livelihood projects to intervene.

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Officials at the refugee settlement say the food crisis has been exacerbated by the reduction in food and cash rations allocated to old and new refugees by the World Food Programme. The humanitarian body in 2020 reduced by up to 30 percent the monthly food and cash ration to refugees in the country citing funding shortfall.

Beatrice Ariye, a South Sudan refugee and mother to a one-year and six-month-old baby says the food challenge is contributing greatly to the cases of malnutrition. Ariye, who has stayed in the refugee settlement for six years ever since fleeing from Morobo County in South Sudan, says all was well until WFP cut down food ration. 

She noted that the food reduction came when she was pregnant, adding that when she delivered, feeding the baby became a problem. “I became stressed at the time and couldn’t produce breast milk for my baby which resulted in a health problem for her. I am however lucky that I got help in growing vegetables which saved me,” She told URN in an interview.

Irene Maturu, the Assistant Yumbe District Health Officer in charge of Maternal Child Health however faults the lifestyle of locals both within the refugee settlement and the host community for the growing malnutrition cases. 

For instance, Maturu says most garden work is left for women who are unable to produce enough food arguing that the majority of men are polygamous and thus don’t provide sufficient support to their families.

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Maturu notes that climate change also played a great role in the reduction of food stock among the refugees citing that most of the food crops planted during the first season withered due to the scorching sun.

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During the belated World Breastfeeding day celebration held at Kululu Sub-county in Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement with support from Action Against Hunger last weekend, various stakeholders stressed the need for food security improvement among refugees.

A total of 670 children suffered malnutrition in Bidi bidi refugee settlement last year according to statistics from IRC. The refugee settlement, one of the largest in the country hosts some 224,048 refugees mostly from South Sudan, with 10 percent of the total population being children under 5 years.

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