Uganda, 5 July 2011: UNICEF and the European Union combat malnutrition in drought-stricken Karamoja
By Jeremy Green
KARAMOJA, Uganda, 5 July 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.
This daily scene is a reminder of deeper issues that challenge this remote region in north-eastern Uganda. Here, swaths of arid, unproductive land and a culture of nomadic cattle herding have led to severe food shortages and devastating hunger.
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.
This effort, known as the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition programme in Karamoja, or IMAM, is helping curb malnutrition in the region, and save children’s lives.
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.
Weekly visits to the nearby health centre over the following weeks – part of the IMAM programme’s follow-up care – led to increased health and well-being for the boys. Just two weeks after returning home, Lochoto’s skin rash had almost disappeared and the swelling had gone down. Francis’ weight had increased to seven kilograms, and he was gaining energy and liveliness.
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.
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