Increasing cases of malnutrition among children below the age of five which result into stunted growth are worrying parents, health workers and stakeholders.
The UNICEF chief field officer in western and central Uganda, Philip Lim-Lim, says the escalation of malnutrition in Tooro region despite the area having plenty of food in abundance is baffling.
Lim-Lim says according to the 2016 Uganda demographic health survey, Tooro region 40% of cases of children under five years presented with severe malnutrition and stunted growth, which has only dropped by 2% in 2022 and this is way higher when compared to overall national average which stands at 26%.
Lim says UNICEF is now seeking to partner with Tooro kingdom at an institutional level to enable the subjects receive information regarding nutrition through kingdom structures in a bid to eradicate stunted growth among the infants.
The program will focus on public mindset change towards feeding, to ensure there is change so that cases of stunted growth are reduced to manageable numbers.
“We are here to look for possible means to have the matter addressed through different stakeholders," Lim Lim added. "For us as UNICEF we are seeking the intervention of the cultural institution through commitment; we want Tooro kingdom to convey the right message to the community through their structures in order to eradicate the problem.”
UNICEF says they will facilitate the royal officials to convey the right message to the people of Tooro through conducting outreach programs in various parts of the kingdom, using reading materials and radio talk shows among other methods.
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Benard Bwambale, a nutritionist, said the worst hit districts, with children currently admitted for malnutrition in the kingdom include Kamwenge district with 1,127 cases’ Fort portal city with 747, Kyejonjo with 634, Kabarole 13, Bunyangabu 32, Kitagwenda 20 and Ntoroko with 31.
He says these are numbers captured in august alone saying many others could still be dying silently in various homes due to the poor health seeking behavior in the region.
Bwambale says according to the medical history most of the kids enrolled on the program, majority were born with Low birth weight of less than 2 ½ Kilograms.
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Mary Nabisere, working with UNICEF on maternal and newborn child health says there are quite a number of causes that bring about malnutrition, which include failure to maintain a balanced diet, failure to breast feed infants in their young state especially in the first 1,000 days.
She says if mothers don’t feed well, they will have higher chances of giving birth to unhealthy babies with low birth weight which can hinder their growth.
“Different districts here don’t use diet diversified food but hope is not yet lost for if we identify malnutrition we can reverse it, hygiene, practices at home also greatly contribute to the unfortunate cases of malnutrition”.
She says the program has seen a number of severe malnutrition cases reversed among infants and they are hopeful the engagement will transform the state of Tooro for the better.
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Kwemara Ngabu. the third deputy Prime Minister, says that as the Kingdom, they are committed to approaching the situation from various angles specifically, to promote community education through sensitization especially among pregnant women and mothers as this prevents them from experiencing low weight birth of children as this remains a key indicator of malnutrition which later translates into stunting.
Ngabu says food security will also be prioritized since most families attribute the failure to access food as one of the reasons as to mothers are not feeding their children.