Increasing cases of malnutrition among children below the age of five, resulting in stunted growth, are causing concern among parents, health workers, and stakeholders,” states the UNICEF chief field officer in western and central Uganda, Philip Lim-Lim.
Lim-Lim expresses bewilderment at the escalating malnutrition in the Tooro region, despite an abundance of food. He cites statistics from the 2016 Uganda demographic health survey, revealing that 40% of children under five in the Tooro region suffer from severe malnutrition and stunted growth.
This figure has only decreased by 2% in 2022, which is significantly higher than the national average of 26%.
UNICEF is now looking to partner with Tooro Kingdom at an institutional level to disseminate nutritional information to the subjects through kingdom structures in an effort to eradicate infant stunted growth.
The program aims to change public mindset regarding feeding practices to reduce stunted growth cases.
“We are here to look for possible means to address the matter through different stakeholders,” adds Lim-Lim. “For us at UNICEF, we seek the cultural institution’s intervention through commitment; we want Tooro Kingdom to convey the right message to the community through their structures to eradicate the problem.”
UNICEF plans to facilitate royal officials in conducting outreach programs throughout the kingdom using various methods such as reading materials and radio talk shows.
Benard Bwambale, a nutritionist, highlights the worst-hit districts in the kingdom, including Kamwenge with 1,127 cases, Fort Portal City with 747, Kyejonjo with 634, Kabarole with 13, Bunyangabu with 32, Kitagwenda with 20, and Ntoroko with 31 cases.
He emphasizes that these numbers, recorded in August alone, may not capture the silent suffering of many children due to poor health-seeking behavior in the region.
Bwambale points out that a majority of the children enrolled in the program were born with low birth weight of less than 2 ½ kilograms, according to their medical history.
Mary Nabisere, working with UNICEF on maternal and newborn child health, explains that various factors contribute to malnutrition, including an imbalanced diet and failure to breastfeed infants during their early days, especially in the first 1,000 days.
She emphasizes that inadequate nutrition during pregnancy can lead to unhealthy babies with low birth weight, hindering their growth.
“Different districts here lack diversified food in their diets, but there is hope. If we identify malnutrition, we can reverse it. Hygiene practices at home also greatly contribute to unfortunate cases of malnutrition,” Nabisere says, highlighting the program’s success in reversing severe malnutrition cases among infants.
Kwemara Ngabu, the third deputy Prime Minister, reveals the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing the situation from various angles. This includes promoting community education and sensitization among pregnant women and mothers to prevent low birth weight in children, a key indicator of malnutrition that can later result in stunting.
Ngabu also emphasizes the importance of food security in ensuring that families can access adequate nutrition, which, in turn, helps mothers feed their children properly.