By Kabuye Ronald
Civil society organizations that unite under the umbrella body of Civil Society Alliance for Nutrition Uganda (CISANU) has urged legislators to enact a law on Food safety and Nutrition in Uganda.
Speaking during the sensitization meeting on advocating for implementation of the commitments in UNAP 11 on breastfeeding, iron and Vitamin A intake, Richard Baguma Tinkasimire, the CISANU Convener said that there is huge appetite to have a law that guides, governs and regulate the nutrition work in Uganda basing on the constitutional provision that food and nutrition are a right that should be accessed by everybody and it’s an obligation of those in governance that is done for everybody.
Baguma said that the law has stalled for so long since 2009 it has been in draft form. However, he commended the parliamentary forum on food and nutrition with the help of other relevant government agencies and civil societies that are pushing for the enactment of the law, adding that they hope by the end of parliament’s term the law will have been enacted and operational to support the scaling up of nutrition work in Uganda.
Baguma says their priority is focused on implementation of breastfeeding, iron and Vitamin A intake with a goal to contribute to the reduction of malnutrition among women and children in Uganda.
“Breastfeeding is the most important foundation for the wellbeing of any human being and sadly in Uganda, statistics indicate that breastfeeding is still very low including the immediate breastfeeding of one hour after birth which is highly recommended and very critical for growth, fighting diseases and developing the brains thus action should be taken to support lactating mothers, promote it as men and parents in the country. ” said Baguma
He added “the other areas are to do with Vitamin A and Iron consumption because there is extremely high level, unacceptable of Anemia in children and women, adolescent girls and men in this country yet we have foods locally that are rich in iron, Vitamin A and other Vitamins but not consumed because of misinformation, marketing of supplements, social and cultural norms which have caused confusion thus must be reversed and protect the population from unnecessary sicknesses and improper growth.”
According to Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (2016 UDHS) Although over 90% of children in Uganda are breastfed at some point, the percentage of children exclusively breastfed decreases sharply with age from 80% in infants 0-1 month to 69% among those 2-3 months and further to 43% among infants aged 4-5 months. In addition, 2% of infants under age 6 months are not breastfed at all.
Iron: the UNAP I evaluation revealed an increase in the prevalence of anemia in women and children from 49% to 53% and 23% to 32% respectively. The prevalence of anemia in Uganda is higher among children aged 6-23 months than older aged 24-59 months with a peak prevalence of 78% among children age 9-11 months.
Vitamin A: according to UBOS 2016, coverage of Vitamin A supplements for children (6-59 months) improved from 57% in 2011 to 62% in 2016.
In the same way Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance Uganda said that on average 30% of Ugandan children are stunted which is a great danger to the country’s future.
“It’s sad that 30% of our children are stunted which automatically means we are losing 30% of our next generation. It means 30% of our parliament, judiciary, executive, health sector, private sector and all other sectors in the economy will be malnourished and yet we are a country of plenty with rich food diversity, willing farming community and thus we are able country to end malnutrition to Zero. However, we have not taken conscious steps to ensure that we end malnutrition” said Kirabo
She added “The other worrying thing is the growing number of Obese and overweight children. Just imagine the young children being injected with insulin and we comfortably live with it. We have a reason to rise up and all be responsible and conscious on what we are feeding on and our children.”