Curbing malnutrition in Karamoja: Multi-sectoral approach working

Better results with sectors working together

Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi
UNICEF Uganda/2018/Bongyereirwe
13 August 2018

Christine Aleu, 28, a resident of Lorengedwat village in Kakomongole Sub County in Nakapiripirit District has been a Village Health Team (VHT) for 10 years now.

Aleu treats about 10-15 under five children suffering from fever, diarrhoea and pneumonia on a monthly basis. In addition, she screens about 15 or 20 under-five malnourished children.

“I do screen for malnutrition. Using the knowledge acquired from our training, I can detect a malnourished child. I also have Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tapes which I use for measurement,” Aleu explains.

For all the children she refers to the health centre, Aleu follows them up to check how they are responding to the treatment.

“Unfortunately, some children re-lapse either because their mothers are not handling them well or the mothers do not cook or they don’t know how to cook nutritious meals,” she explains.

The VHT system is one of the structures that the districts are utilizing to engage the community and identify malnourished children and those suffering from other diseases.

The Nakapiripirit District Health Officer Dr. John Anguzu notes that employing a multi-sectoral approach is the best way to curb malnutrition in Karamoja region.

“The nutrition interventions are working. This is mainly because we employ a multi-sectoral approach. Previously, nutrition used to be more of a health problem. But now it concerns everyone and all the sectors work together,” Anguzu says.

He adds that working with structures that the community is familiar with like VHTs has enabled the district penetrate the grassroots with behaviour change messages, all geared to reducing malnutrition.

“The situation has greatly improved. Cases of severe malnutrition have reduced. While we still receive those that are treated in the outpatient therapeutic centre (OTC) but the number of children in the in-patient therapeutic centre (ITC) has gone down,” Anguza further narrates.

Lucy Lamong, Community Development Officer Kakomongole Subcounty says the VHTs and other structures like Parish Development Committees, Functional Adult Literacy instructors, know and understand the community so they assist the district to identify malnourished children and those affected by any other diseases. She says critical to their work as community based workers is changing the mindset of the community.

At Takora Health Centre IV one of the two OTC and ITC centres in the district, 92 cases were registered in the OTC between July 2017-May 2018. 

Dr. Peter Lokwang, the In-charge Takora Health Centre IV appreciates UNICEF’s regular support towards nutrition and other health concerns like maternal and child health. “We have all the necessary medicines and supplies to treat malnutrition. We are so grateful to UNICEF. Our staff have been trained by UNICEF through CUAMM on how to address issues of malnutrition including severe acute malnutrition in the facility,” he notes. Lokwang however notes that the health centre experiences challenges of feeding at night due to limited staff to monitor the mothers and their children. 

Takora is one of the health centres in Karamoja sub region benefitting from UNICEF’s support. The support is extended by UKaid through the inception phase of a four-year joint UNICEF and WFP Karamoja Nutrition Programme. The UNICEF component is implemented by CUAMM.

The inception phase of the KNP is focusing on identifying the knowledge gaps and continued provision of a minimum package of nutrition interventions to sustain current nutritional status.