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Health Ministry Targets Reduced Stunting Among Children By 2025

Young children eating porridge in Kiryandongo District. Uganda is stil grappling with stunting among children which stands at 25 percent.

The Ministry of Health has renewed its commitment to seeing a reduction in stunted children under the age of five by the end of 2025.

Current statistics from the Ministry reveal stunting in children under five years stands at 25 percent with the prevalence being more pronounced in the rural areas of Central and Northern Uganda.

Samalie Namukose, the Assistant Commissioner of Health Services/Nutrition Division at the Ministry of Health says stunting among other forms of malnutrition remains a burden to the country’s health sector and needs urgent solutions.

She says a recent survey conducted by Makerere University Public Health Institute also indicates a great percentage of children under five years are underweight, anemic, and severely wasted as a result of poor feeding.

Namukose adds that the survey indicates that three percent of children are wasted, nine percent are underweight and 44 percent are anemic.

Namukose was on Wednesday speaking at a Nutrition symposium. The symposium held under the theme “strengthening System for Improved Nutrition in Uganda” was organized by the Health Ministry in partnership with UNICEF, World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger, and USAID, among other partners.

According to Namukose, the trend of stunting among children under five years is still persisting despite several past interventions, the government has set up new ideas targeting a 19 percent reduction of stunting in children by 2025.

Namukose believes the causes of stunting could be food insecurity resulting from climate change effects, inadequate dietary intake in households, limited access to healthcare services, and effects of covid-19 pandemic.

Health Experts at the symposium also highlighted that the adult population is facing a malnutrition burden with the rise of obesity resulting in non-communicable diseases.

Dr. Kenneth Mutesasira, a World Health Organization representative says 24 percent of the females in the country who are of reproductive age and nine percent of men are overweight as a result of unhealthy nutrition.

He says there has also been a sharp rise in cases of non-communicable diseases recently citing cases of diabetes and hypertension which are the most common.

Tim Mateba, a Senior Nutritionist at the Ministry of Health says the rising cases of obesity among adults and adolescents stem from eating fast foods which are unhealthy.

To curb the rising cases of obesity which he puts at 15 percent among adolescent youth, Mateba says the Ministry has developed guidelines to intensify sensitization to preach the message of healthy feeding in the community.

The Minister of State for Health in Charge of Primary Health Care Margaret Muhanga however faulted a section of individuals for being complacent to the Health Ministry’s advice on nutrition, even when it is for their own good.

She said there is a need for lifestyle change among individuals to see a reduction in malnutrition and non-communicable disease cases.

Several partners at the symposium equally made commitments to partner with the Health Ministry in addressing malnutrition through various intervention measures.

Dave Greenhalgh, Head of Program Development and Quality at Action Against Hunger notes that they are already supporting the implementation of the government’s nutrition policy in both humanitarian and development contexts.

He, however, says there is a need for increased domestic financing for nutrition, delivering promotion of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, and increase focus on nutrition data collection, analysis, and reporting.

Between 2013 and 2015, over 500,000, children below 5 years died, with malnutrition accounting for half of the mortality associated with under-nutrition according to a 2019 UNICEF report.

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