Although malnutrition in Uganda has been decreasing in recent years, wasting and stunting levels among children remain very high. The causes of undernutrition in children under five are multidimensional. These include lack of awareness on good food feeding practices and child care, limited availability and access to diversified foods, and poverty. Additionally, negative attitudes and beliefs, poor sanitation and hygiene practices, inadequate access to safe water, inadequate budgetary allocation, and poor social services delivery compound the issue.
The prevalence of undernutrition in children under five decreases with increasing levels of the mother’s education. Similarly, stunting decreases with increasing wealth. Overconsumption of staples and fewer diverse foods plays a major role in micronutrient deficiency in Uganda. Importing food supplements should not be necessary in Uganda, which has a large population in rural or semi-rural areas and plenty of fertile land.
Great potential to improve diets
Home to many neglected and underutilised species of plants which could contribute to greater nutrition and health, there is a great potential to improve diets and build climate resiliency in the food supply at local level. Communities in both rural and urban areas are gradually experiencing negative impacts of climate change. The weather patterns are less predictable and disrupt rain-dependent farming calendars, especially for poor householders.
During periods of prolonged droughts, access to diversified diets becomes a challenge and most families survive on energy-rich mono-diets. Nutrient rich crops like fruits and vegetables become less available due to water stress, as well as crop pests and diseases. Access to clean and safe water becomes a huge problem during the dry periods. Women and girls walk longer distances to access water for home use, which increases their workloads.
With water shortages, communities’ behaviours and practices of good hygiene practices are undermined. Inadequate access to WASH services and poor household level practices contribute significantly to underlying causes of malnutrition in Uganda. According to the World Health Organisation, 50% of malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal worm infections because of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, or insufficient hygiene. Women and girls remain the major water collectors, users, and promoters of households and community sanitation activities.