Accelerating investments in nutrition for sustainable development in Uganda

Statement by Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF Representative in Uganda and UN Resident Coordinator ai

15 March 2018

It is my honour to be with you today at the 2nd National Nutrition Forum in Uganda, where we are marking the significant strides made by the Government of Uganda in the nutrition sector, as well as reflecting on how we can collectively accelerate our progress going forward. 

Allow me, Rt. Hon Prime Minister, to acknowledge you for your commitment in leading the nutrition agenda in Uganda, making nutrition one of the few national programs being coordinated at such a high level within government.

Your leadership is greatly appreciated and valued.

And thank you to you and your good Office for developing the first-ever Multi-Sectoral National Nutrition Policy, which is a milestone achievement in Uganda!

Ensuring Uganda’s population is well nourished, especially among young children, is not only right in principle, but right in practice.

Good nutrition is critical for the productive futures of individual Ugandans, as well as the overall socio-economic development of the country.

However, when we look at the State of Nutrition in Uganda today, we are unfortunately not realizing the full potential of all individual Ugandans and the country as whole.

With 29% of all Under-5 children in Uganda today – over 2 million young children - chronically undernourished, we still have significant progress to make.

Furthermore, the country is experiencing a rising trend in individuals that are overweight, with 4% of all children and 15% of all adults in Uganda being overweight.

This double burden of nutritional issues has serious consequences for the country, and hinders Uganda’s efforts in achieving its Sustainable Development Goal targets.

Steps need to be taken to address this double burden.

Children affected by chronic malnutrition experience stunted physical and cognitive development, which is irreversible and has lifelong consequences.

In addition, chronically undernourished children are up to four times more likely to die from infectious disease, and less likely to perform well in school, than well-nourished children. 

The ”Cost of Hunger” study carried out in 2013 by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the World Food Programme, indicates that in 2009 an estimated 1.8 trillion Ugandan shillings (UGX) – nearly $900 million - was lost in Uganda as a result of child undernutrition. 

That was equivalent to 5.6% of Uganda’s GDP.

Economic losses due to malnutrition affect individuals, entire families and the country as a whole, compromising Uganda’s ability to realize its Vision 2040 goal of a $9,500 per capita income.

Based on these consequences for health and economic growth, it is critical that the high-level commitment to nutrition that we have here in Uganda translates into the most impactful actions possible, so that both the 2025 World Health Assembly and 2030 Sustainable Development Goal targets are achieved.

While accelerating our progress to achieve the targets won’t be easy, there is hope.

Uganda is part of the global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which focuses on the critical window of opportunity – the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.

And, the first ever Uganda Nutrition Action plan (2011-2016), launched by H.E. the President in October 2011, provides the strategic framework and direction to guide the scale-up of multi-sectoral nutrition interventions in Uganda.

Seven years down the road, it is time to review the implementation of this Action Plan and develop a new Plan to guide the interventions by the different sectors for the next five years.

We look forward to applying the lessons learned from this review so that we fast-track the achievement of our national and international nutrition targets over the next five years.

It is imperative that we now develop a greater collective understanding of the roles of key sectors in nutrition, and implement a clear accountability framework for nutrition.

Simply put, nutrition should be embedded in all national and sectoral development plans and budgets.

This occasion provides an opportune moment for all of us - civil servants in key Ministries, decision makers at district and national levels, development partners, etc - to further embed nutrition in our plans and to strengthen the implementation of those plans.

Along with this, we must work to maximize the investments that are made in our multi-sectoral nutrition response, leverage the additional investments in various sectors to strengthen our multi-sectoral response, and explore how we can increase high-impact investments to scale-up our response.
Right Honorable Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

Sharpening the way we work together is critical to improving our nutrition results over the coming years. 

The UN system is ready, and looks forward to fully supporting you, to do so going forward.

Thank you.

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