Scaling up high impact nutrition interventions
Malnutrition threatens to destroy a generation of children in Uganda. More than one third of all young children – 2.4 million – are stunted. The damage caused by stunting is irreversible. Half of children under five and one quarter of child-bearing-age women are anemic. The problem persists despite a drop in stunting and anemia rates in recent years.
Whether poor or wealthy, children are malnourished for similar reasons. Women tend to get pregnant when young and have low birth-weight babies, which predisposes children to malnutrition. Repeated childhood infections such as diarrhoea and low breastfeeding rates also lead to wasting and stunting. Families are either too poor, or do not know how, to give their children a healthy diet.
Between 2013 and 2015, it is estimated that more than 500,000 young Ugandan children died. Of these deaths, nearly half were associated with undernutrition. Undernutrition is responsible for four in 10 deaths of children under five. The 2012 study, Cost of Hunger in Uganda, estimated the health cost of children’s undernutrition-related illnesses (for those under five) to be more than UGX 525 billion, most of which was used for treating undernutrition and associated illnesses. It is also estimated that undernutrition costs Uganda 1.8 trillion UGX, an equivalent of 5.6 per cent of its GDP annually.
The combined effects of malnutrition on health care costs and education — due to grade repetition and reduction in productivity — traps families in a vicious cycle of poverty. It is estimated that the total cost of child undernutrition in Uganda is equivalent to a staggering 5.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product: UGX 1.86 trillion (US$ 899 million), based on 2009 data.
The causes of malnutrition are complex and must be addressed in a holistic and coordinated manner.
By investing in proven high-impact, nutrition-specific and -sensitive activities and policies, tied to common goals and results, alongside strong leadership and capacity, we support children in Uganda to reach their full potential.
UNICEF's work focuses on supporting the relevant Ugandan ministries as they roll out the “1000 days” programme. The programme also has strong links to with early childhood development. We work on evidence-based monitoring and planning, with links to reproductive maternal, neonatal and child health services. We also advocate, locally and with governments, to improve infant and child feeding care and practice and to increase funding for nutrition.
We support supplementary nutrition activities through bi-annual Child Health Days and improve the coverage and quality of community-based management of acute malnutrition.
- If the number of stunted children is reduced to 25 percent by 2020, nearly 750,000 more children will grow up without the crippling effects of chronic malnutrition.
- If 75 percent of children age 2 are given nutritious food a minimum number of times a day, by 2020, the nutritional status of well over one million more young children will be greatly improved.
- If the target of enrolling 85 per cent of children with severe acute malnutrition in treatment programmes is reached by 2020, nearly one million more children will stand a good chance of recovering from a life-threatening condition.
“My twins, Kakuru and Kato, recovered well after the nutrition treatment at Ishongororo Health Centre about two years ago ... although Kato has been taken back to the health centre with fever today by his mother, I appreciate the services at the unit.”