Nutrition plays a crucial role in the socioeconomic development of any country. Malnutrition accounts for about 35 percent of deaths among children under 5 years old around the world. Stunting, severe wasting, and intrauterine growth retardation are the major contributors to child mortality, accounting for about 2 million deaths annually. Malnutrition is the major cause of morbidity for all age groups, accounting for 11 percent of the disease burden globally. In addition, iron deficiency is the leading cause of maternal mortality, accounting for 20 percent of the estimated 536,000 deaths worldwide. About 43 percent of all deaths among children under 5 occur in Africa.
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), 19 percent of the Ugandan population was malnourished in 2006, and 38 percent of children under 5 were stunted. This prevalence means that about 2.3 million young children in Uganda today are chronically malnourished. In addition, 16 percent of children under 5 are underweight while 6 percent are wasted, and 12 percent of women are malnourished.
The current levels of malnutrition in Uganda are unacceptable. Therefore, nutrition warrants greater investment and commitment for Uganda to realise its full development potential. Such an investment is a necessary prerequisite for further progress on the Millennium Development Goals and attainment of the National Development Plan (NDP) objectives. While there has been some reduction in the prevalence of child malnutrition in Uganda over the past 15 years, the change has been slow.
Child malnutrition in Uganda remains largely a ‘hidden problem’; micronutrient deficiencies are similarly difficult to detect. Malnutrition remains one of Uganda’s most fundamental challenges for human welfare and economic growth. The ultimate goal of the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP) is to reduce levels of malnutrition among women of reproductive age, infants, and young children through 2016; ensuring that all Ugandans are properly nourished will enable them to live healthy and productive lives. However, it is particularly at the start of the life cycle where we must work together to ensure that all Ugandans are properly nourished. To attain this, women of reproductive age must receive proper nutrition so that when they are pregnant they are able to properly nourish their children
from the time of conception until those children begin complementary feeding.
Interventions to prevent malnutrition have the greatest benefit during these 1,000 days. Only by doing this will Uganda have in place the nutritional foundation of an intelligent, creative, and healthy population from which to build a better and more prosperous future. This is why the UNAP focuses on young children and mothers and seeks to scale up efforts to ensure that all Ugandan children are properly nourished from the day they are conceived.