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New Research Attributes Decline in Stunting Levels to Mosquito Net Use

Dr. Peter Waiswa, a researcher based at Makerere University School of Public health who was the Co-investigator on the study, says that one of the most important drivers of the decline in stunting among children under-five were increased coverage of insecticide-treated nets reasoning that with the prevention method, children do not fall sick.
For children under five years of age, sleeping under the net greatly reduces stunting levels.

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Uganda has registered immense progress in reducing stunting levels among children in the last two decades, findings of a new study have revealed.   

 

According to a study dubbed “Exemplars in Stunting Reduction: Uganda Country Case Study” which was conducted through both reviewing government data from 1995 to 2016, policy review and interviews with mothers who have children aged 20, the reduction in stunting levels from the highs of 48% to now 29% is partly attributable to bed nets.

Dr. Peter Waiswa, a researcher based at Makerere University School of Public health who was the Co-investigator on the study, says that one of the most important drivers of the decline in stunting among children under-five were increased coverage of insecticide-treated nets reasoning that with the prevention method, children do not fall sick.

A child with malaria gets eating problems that can repetitively lead to malnutrition and stunting. In addition, he says maternal nutrition, improved maternal education, women empowerment and access to piped water also helped reduce the stunting levels.  

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The biggest reduction in stunting started in 2000, according to the data.  

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The researchers also found Teso region had the lowest levels of stunting while Tooro region has the highest level at 45% way above the 29% national average.

In Teso, the stunting levels stand at 22%, which Dr. Richard Kajura, the Principal Investigator attributes their ability to mix meals and the independence of women to decide what sort of meals the family should have.

In Kasese, he says they found in tow in every two children had a nutrition-related problem noting that many people there depend on one type of food.  

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Overall, however, even though the country still has high stunting figures, Waiswa says Uganda is among the countries in Africa that have achieved a rapid rate of childhood stunting reduction relative to their economic growth.  

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To consolidate these gains the researchers recommend strengthening strategies that deliberately target the poor and the least educated in addition to investing in new technologies and nutrition-sensitive innovations in the agriculture sector to improve productivity. They note that scaling up the bio fortification of orange sweet potatoes alone would reach subsistence farmers and potentially improve Vitamin A status among women and children.

At the administrative level, Kajura recommends increased financial allocation to nutrition-related programs noting that in their research they realized that there was no budget line that was 100% nutrition-specific but the gains were made from indirect programs such as free education that has to enlighten mothers and NAADS which have increased food availability in some areas.

These findings were put to Samalie Namukose, the Assistant Commissioner in the Nutrition Division in the Ministry of Health who acknowledged the stunting problem and said the new data will guide them in picking nutrition-specific interventions since they have just developed a nutrition implementation plan that gives them pointers on what areas to focus on.

She says they already know severely stunted children face four times higher chances of dying before the age of five and yet those that survive end up rapidly gaining weight later in life, which is now fueling the non-communicable diseases crisis.  

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