UGANDA – The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the country’s stakeholders on nutrition are on course to advance the nutrition agenda in Uganda in a one-day symposium, convened by the Ministry of Health, under the theme Strengthening Information System for Nutrition.
The symposium was targeted at providing a platform for sharing experiences on the successes and challenges of processing and disseminating nutrition information.
It focused on efforts by government and nutrition partners to strengthen the collection and management of nutrition data from the health system, both at community and facility levels, and to showcase innovations to support the digitalization of reports, analysis and use of nutrition information systems in Uganda and share experiences in linking nutrition information systems across various sectors.
Ms. Samalie Namukose, Assistant Commissioner for Nutrition at the Ugandan Ministry of Health said, “This year’s symposium comes at a time when the world stands reminded of the importance of collecting, analyzing, and using data for decision making, as seen in the current COVID19 pandemic.”
Uganda committed to track and report on specific nutrition indicators identified by the World Health Assembly and the United Nations in the sustainable development goals.
These include childhood wasting, Underweight in women of reproductive age, anaemia in women of reproductive age, low birth weight, childhood overweight, exclusive breastfeeding, overweight and obesity in women, adolescents, and children, iron supplementation, counselling on breastfeeding.
It focused on efforts by government and nutrition partners to strengthen the collection and management of nutrition data from the health system
The symposium was held as part of the findings of the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan II, launched in September 2020. It aimed at one side, to increase access to and utilization of nutrition-specific services by children under 5 years, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and other vulnerable groups; on the other side to strengthen the enabling environment for scaling up nutrition-specific interventions.
The UNAPII reports that only 65.5% of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed, 10% of newborns are born with low birth weight, and 29% of children under five are stunted.
These figures show the burden of malnutrition is still high among this group. Routine data from the ministry of health showed that the proportion of children under five found malnourished increased to 22.4% in July 2021 from 6.4% in June 2021.
Such increases call for further investigation to identify the underlying cause for the rise in cases to initiate an appropriate response.
Uganda’s adult population also faces a malnutrition burden. According to UDHS 2016, 28.5% of women of reproductive age have anemia, and 4.7% of adult women have diabetes, compared to 4.4% of men. Meanwhile, 8.6% of women and 1.8% of men have obesity.
To address this gap, The Ministry of Health is implementing several nutrition interventions. One such intervention is improving the tracking of nutrition indicators. WHO and UNICEF through the Ministry of Health are implementing a 4 years project on strengthening national nutrition information systems.
The symposium further discussed recommendations to advance the nutrition agenda in the country in other to ensure good health of Ugandans, especially children under five years and pregnant women.
“There is a need to improve management of acute malnutrition service delivery through routine coaching, mentorship, and supportive supervision on integrated management of acute malnutrition as well as mortality audits,” Ms. Nabunya Phoebe, Nutrition consultant at WHO.