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Poverty leading cause of urban malnutrition-nutritionists

FILE PHOTO: Meal time at a Ugandan home. Poverty levels still worrying. WORLD VISION PHOTO

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Cissy Nambajjwe, a resident of Bukesa Parish in Kampala Central Division can only afford a meal a day. Her meal is comprised of posho accompanied by boiled beans or mukene.

Once a week, she gives herself a treat by eating chapatti. Nambajjwe attributes her eating habit to lack of money. She earns Shillings 3,000 a day, part of which she uses to feed and save for rent.

According to nutritionists, Nambajjwe is malnourished because she doesn’t get the right food. Her diet is made up of two types of food, which denies her other nutrients like vitamins. Samalie Namukose, the Principal nutritionist In the Health Ministry, says there are many people in urban areas who live in a similar diet.

She attributes this to poverty, which makes most of the people unable to afford more than a single meal. “Our data shows that there is a decline in the number of people suffering from malnutrition in the country on the whole but in urban slums, this figure is stagnant. Many people are not eating what they are supposed to,” Namukose said.

Data from the Health ministry shows that on average 25 percent of the female population and 15 percent males in the country are underweight as a result of malnutrition.

The figure for children under five years of age stands at 50 percent. Dr. Esther Babirekere, the head of Mwana Mugimu Nutrition Center at Mulago Hospital, says most of the patients they receive, say they have nothing to eat.

In October 2018, Kampala Capital City Authority in collaboration with the World Food Programme embarked on a study aimed at determining the causes of malnutrition in urban areas like Kampala. Preliminary findings from the study show that residents in Kampala have sufficient food but don’t know how to plan for their meals.

Paul Bakileke, a researcher on the study says they discovered that people in urban areas can afford to buy food but the problem is that they eat the wrong types.

He adds that cities like Kampala have enough food to offer their residents but the problem of malnutrition comes about because people don’t have money to buy the food they need to eat.

“We have discovered that some people don’t plan their meals. Someone Spends Shs 5,000 a day on food but decides to either eat rice or posho because they are satisfying. They do not eat fruits because they think it is a luxury even when they can afford it,” he said.

Osbourne Musinguzi, a Village Health Team worker in Kakajjo Zone 1, says government should find ways of spreading wealth to all citizens so that everyone in the country can afford to buy food.

Charles Muwanguzi, the Bukesa Parish Defense Secretary, says so many people in his area suffer from malnutrition due to poor feeding.

According to records from the Health Ministry, the highest burden of malnutrition is found in Karamoja and West Nile regions. The rate of malnutrition in the areas stands at more than 30 percent in both regions for women, children and men.

It is estimated by the Health Ministry that if the current rate of malnutrition continues, more than 568,000 children will die by 2025 due to poor breast feeding practices, vitamin A deficiency and wasting.

Dr. Samalie Namukose, a Principal Nutritionist Ministry of Health, says Uganda loses a lot of money annually when it comes to treat malnutrition.

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