Malnutrition in Uganda
Malnutrition in childhood and pregnancy has many adverse consequences for child survival and long-term well-being. It also has far-reaching consequences for human capital, economic productivity, and national development overall. Micronutrient deficiencies among women and children in Uganda are common, and often the nutrition problems are hidden. Drivers of malnutrition include early motherhood, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, high disease burden, especially childhood diarrhea and malaria, and poor infant and young child feeding practices.
- Vitamin A deficiency affects one out of five young children and women of reproductive age, resulting in impaired resistance to infection and consequently higher levels of illness and mortality, as well as potentially severe eye problems.
- 2.2 million children under 5 years (29 percent) suffer from stunting (low height-for-age), according to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) as a result of growing under limited provision of food, health, and care.
- Iron-deficiency anemia affects three-quarters of children 6–59 months old and half of women of reproductive age. Anemia in women leads to chronic fatigue and impairs productivity, earnings, and caregiving abilities. Pregnancy complications, premature birth, low birth weight, and even maternal mortality all arise from iron deficiencies in women.
Barriers to Nutrition in Uganda
- Disease: causes loss of appetite, reduced food intake and increased loss and reduced absorption of nutrients, leading to malnutrition.
- Household food insecurity: Poor access to the range of foods needed for a diversified diet means the foods that households frequently consume are relatively deficient in micronutrients. Seasonality in food production, variable food prices, and seasonal earning patterns exacerbate the instability and the poor quality of the diet the household consumes through the year.
- Inadequate maternal and child care: Care-related constraints lead to both inadequate dietary intake and a high disease burden in young children. These constraints include the heavy workload that women as primary caregivers in the household must shoulder every day. Women do both farm and household chores and might engage in small business activities, while also being responsible for the continual care of the children and other dependents within the household. Frequent births limit a woman’s ability to properly care for her infant and other young children, while also regaining her own health.
- Poor access to health care and a healthy environment: In far too many cases, young children do not live in a healthy environment with good access to toilets and other sanitation services, a reliable safe water supply, and effective health facilities and services, including nutrition services such as micronutrients.
- Poverty: Most families in Uganda that face malnutrition also face poverty, which makes it difficult to find and afford balanced and nutrient-rich meals.
Diet in Uganda
According to the report from FAO, the Ugandan diet is mainly composed of plantain, starchy roots (cassava, sweet potatoes) and cereals (maize, millet, sorghum). Pulses, nuts and green leafy vegetables complement the diet. In urban areas, which are undergoing a nutrition transition, food consumption patterns are changing and rice is gaining importance. Overall, the diet remains poor in micronutrient-rich foods. Food insecurity persists in some parts of the country, mainly due to poverty, adverse climatic conditions, low agricultural productivity and prolonged civil insecurity in some regions. The dietary energy supply meets the population energy requirements, but the share of lipids and that of protein are at the lower limits of recommendations. Undernourishment affects 15% of the population, a proportion which has decreased over the last decade.