UNICEF and the European Union combat malnutrition in drought-stricken Uganda
By Jeremy Green
KARAMOJA, Uganda, 27 June 2011 – A passing herd of cattle is a common sight in Karamoja, where the sound of their hooves gets lost in the gusts of wind that carry dust far beyond the village limit.
Karamoja suffers from one the worst rates of malnutrition in the world. In 2010, 16 per cent of children under the age of five suffered from acute malnutrition, and nearly 40 per cent of children in this age group were underweight.
To tackle this critical problem, the European Union humanitarian aid department (ECHO), UNICEF and Action Against Hunger are working hand-in-hand with Uganda’s Ministry of Health, referral hospitals, health centres, and communities to integrate the treatment and prevention of malnutrition into routine health services.
Fighting for survival
One-year old Lochoto Lochero and Francis Lokiru, 2, are both children whose lives have been saved due to IMAM interventions. Lochoto suffered from kwashiorkor, a common type of acute malnutrition caused by a lack of protein in a child’s diet. He developed skin rashes and oedema, and his body was swollen due to water retention.
Francis suffered from marasmus, a form of malnutrition caused by not having enough calories and protein for long periods of time. Francis’ little body was severely emaciated as a result of the condition.
When the two boys were admitted to hospital, their odds of survival were low. But after seven days of intensive medical and nutritional care, they both recovered and were able to return home.
The IMAM programme reaches beneficiaries like Lochoto and Francis at home through the efforts of Village Health Teams, who track weekly progress and take anthropometric measurements.
Health teams on the go
In order to address the root causes of malnutrition, IMAM also includes training for the health teams to conduct health promotion activities with mothers on nutrition, food security, water and sanitation.
As more weeks pass, Francis’ appetite is getting better and his little body has gained more weight and energy. Lochoto’s skin is also looking healthier and his smile much bigger.