Press statement from the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) on the reporters Nutrition training held on the 12th of August 2015 and sponsored by the USAID’s Production for Improved Nutrition Project (PIN) and implemented by Reco Industries Limited.
Besides income transfer programs, effective food aid programs and nutritional awareness programs, the media is a key player in the fight against under-nutrition.
So to educate the media on the importance of covering under-nutrition, the USAID’s Production for Improved Nutrition Project (PIN) which is implemented by Reco Industries Limited sponsored an editors breakfast on 4th August and a reporters training on the 12th of August 2015. The Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) facilitated both events.
The keynote address was made by Dr Elizabeth Madraa, a fortification/policy adviser at Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) Uganda.
Dr Madraa, urged the media to get the necessary facts and educate the nation about nutrition. She said malnutrition affects children under the age of 5 where growth is fast, beyond which age, some of the nutrition interventions to stop it cannot work.
She said fortified foods are crucial in addressing the problem of malnutrition, which remains a big burden in Uganda and urged the Government to assist middle and small scale farmers to fortify their products.
Dr Madraa explained that while fortification is one of the most cost effective and sustainable approaches to addressing micronutrient malnutrition, it should be implemented alongside other strategies including bio-fortification and supplementation.
“Consumption of fortified foods are meant to improve nutritional status and to decrease the degree of malnutrition and prevent micronutrient deficiencies,” said Dr Madraa.
Brian Rwabwogo, the Chief of Party, USAID/Uganda PIN project said the media is a key player and should educate the young people about nutrition. He said the project is supporting school gardens and child rights groups to empower the next generation of Ugandans.
Alex Kisembo, Marketing and Sales Director at Reco Industries, said some of the foods they fortify include corn soya blend and fortified maize, which are rich in essential minerals and vitamins such as iron, Vitamin B1, Folic acid, Zinc and Biotin.
“Nutrition is an essential part of leading a healthy life. We should also strive to ensure that all individuals and families across the country have access to the appropriate nutritional choices,” said Mr Kisembo.
RECO Industries Ltd, is an agro-processing company has operations in Kampala and Kasese, but works with farmer groups across the country.
Brenda Shenute Namugumya, Senior Technical Officer-Nutrition from Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA II) project said households have made strides in overcoming under nutrition by having kitchen gardens.
She urged people to balance between selling food to generate income and to feed properly to remain healthy. Uganda, although considered a food basket in the East African region has the highest number of stunted children. She said 54% (one in two) Uganda’s adult population was stunted in childhood.
Dr. Mansur Toko, regional nutritionist at Jinja referral hospital said there is a lot of misinformation about nutrition. He advised that although people like using food supplements, they are expensive, a short term intervention that does not remove the risk.
He said child labour can also lead to malnutrition because children use up more food than is ingested. He also advised that families stop blaming malnutrition on witchcraft and urged the media to play its role in educating the massed.
Below are statistics and facts on undernutrition and maternal nutrition in Uganda:
Malnutrition occurs even within the wealthy households
54% (one in two) Uganda’s adult population was stunted in childhood
12% of women in reproductive age are too thin (BMI <18.5 kg/m2)
23 % women of reproductive age have anaemia (<12.0g/dl)
Three in ten pregnant women have anaemia
438 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births
Western and Southwestern have highest number of stunted children; 9-24 months most affected by stunting
Uganda has the highest number of stunted children in the East African region
Malnutrition and stunting is transferred from generation to generation if no intervention is done
At least 98% Ugandan households use iodised salt
The commonest micronutrient deficiencies in Uganda are ; Iron, Vitamin A and Zinc deficiency as well as Iodine deficiency disorders
Kisoro 61% households have latrines however, the utilisation level is 20%.
Ready to Use Therapeutics foods (RUTFs) are administered for FREE at all health facilities. Administering of RUTFs is 6 weeks – 3 months after which, complimentary food should be administered
Therapeutic foods can only be prescribed in a health facility so they are not available on the open market; RUTFs are effectively a drug and it should no be used by healthy people and for those who are sick for not more than 3 months
The ‘F’ Logo on packaging shows that the food is fortified. It is for purposes of educating the population about the product.
All wheat producers in Uganda fortify mandatorily while for Maize and oil only producers of certain quantities have to fortify.
The level of Vitamin A deficiency is 36% in Uganda but all expecting mothers attending antenatal clinics and get iron supplements
RECO Industries Ltd has 30 years of experience in making RUTs and they have a competitive edge over the other companies .