KARAMOJA, Uganda — Malnutrition presents the world with a challenging fight, seeing as the effects go deeper than starving people. It affects various facets of societal structure, making it all the more difficult to address. Uganda suffers exceptionally from malnutrition, the population surviving on nutrient poor food that hurts not only the people, but the economy and education as well.
In 2013, the Cost of Hunger in Africa study found that Uganda loses 5.6 percent of its gross domestic process due to malnutrition. Lack of adequate food leads to poor health and weakness, preventing workers from being productive.
The effects of malnutrition in Uganda are most apparent in children. Undernourished children are often affected by a condition called stunting, which one in three children in Uganda live with. These children are more likely to fall ill and under perform at school and, later in life, at work.
Malnutrition leads to under performance in school, and contributes to the loss of $116 million that would be brought in from educated workers. According to a BBC report, approximately 133,000 Ugandan children that are suffering from stunting are required to repeat a year in school.
Many families raise their children on nutrient poor food, such as boiled bananas, which are hardly a smorgasbord of nutrients. This deficiency in vitamins and minerals results from a combination of a lack of resources and a lack of nutrition of awareness. The involvement of various organizations and the development of helpful initiatives have given Uganda hope in recent years.
In 2013, the World Food Programme reported that Uganda had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and over the past three years has expanded by about 5 percent annually. Part of this growth can be attributed to third party involvement. In the Ibanda District of Uganda, UNICEF, the European Union and USAID are involved in a program targeted to develop healthy nutritional practices community wide.
The program educates families about nutrition through food demonstrations and develops community-based groups to explore the world of nutrition. The program has been very effective in Ibanda, and hopes to expand to other areas of the country to attempt to minimize malnutrition in Uganda.
Also making strides toward reducing the rampant malnutrition in Uganda is the malnutrition program at St. Kizito Hospital in the Karamoja region of Uganda. Housed in one room of the hospital, the program treats over thirty patients at a time whose mothers assist in feeding them while the children struggle to regain strength. The program is able to keep the children alive, providing they arrive for treatment before they catch a fatal infection like malaria.
Upon admittance to the hospital, it takes about 28 days to stabilize a child’s health. The program weighs and measures the children every day before providing them with nutrient rich food to help them survive and gain strength. The hospital is thought of by many to be the only competent one for around 100 miles.
In a country lacking nutrition awareness and the economy to support an adequate food supply for everyone, it’s easy to write it off as a hopeless situation. Uganda, while suffering from malnutrition, is proof that hunger doesn’t define a country’s future. With the help of UNICEF, USAID, the EU and St. Kizito Hospital, the starving people in Uganda are gaining the tools and the strength they need to bounce back from the struggles they have been plagued with for so long.
– Maggie Wagner