KOTIDO – Government and development partners on Monday launched a major programme aimed at improving the delivery of quality nutrition services across Karamoja.
The Karamoja Nutrition Programme, funded by UK aid and implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), will strengthen the government’s health system to ensure children and mothers across the region receive high-quality health and nutrition services and are better nourished.
“Uganda is grateful to the Government of the United Kingdom, which has invested approximately £28 million ($36 million) in Karamoja. It is now important for all leaders at the central and local government levels to own the changes that this new programme will bring to the health system in Karamoja and ensure that we sustain them over the long term,” said John Byabagambi, Minister for Karamoja.
The programme supports all district local governments in Karamoja to develop the skills of nutritionists and health workers; improve the treatment of acute malnutrition in hospitals, health centres and communities; generate evidence to improve the design of nutrition services; procure and manage quality nutrition supplies; and provide more effective nutrition leadership and coordination across all Government departments and partners.
“Working to strengthen the government’s health system, with strong district leadership and engagement, presents an opportunity for Karamoja to address its malnutrition challenge,” said Francesca Stidston, the Acting Head of Office for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Uganda.
“The UK government is therefore pleased to launch the Karamoja Nutrition Programme which, along with our support to the prevention and control of malaria in the region, will contribute to improving the health and nutrition outcomes for the people of Karamoja,” said Stidston.
With 84 percent of people in Karamoja unable to afford a nutritious daily diet, 45 percent of households having limited access to food, and over half of all households not having much diversity in their diet, malnutrition is a major impediment to Karamoja’s development, undermining the health and economic prospects of the population.
“Considering more than 1 in 3 children in Karamoja experience stunted development due to malnutrition, this programme is timely in that it will help to ensure that children access higher quality nutrition services, which are essential to their survival and healthy development,” said Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF’s Representative in Uganda.
The programme will support: over 100,000 malnourished children under the age of 5 with a community based supplementary feeding programme; nearly 15,000 severely malnourished children with specialized treatment in hospitals and health centres; 140,000 children to receive Vitamin A supplements and deworming medication twice a year; and around 70,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women with iron-folic acid supplements to treat anaemia.
At the launch, the leadership from Karamoja’s eight districts – Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit and Nabilatuk – as well as leaders from the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs committed to ensure that all pillars of the programme are fully integrated within the health sector and are effectively planned and budgeted for after the programme ends in three years.
“The Karamoja Nutrition Programme is a continuation of the Government of Uganda and development partners’ march to end child stunting in Uganda,” said WFP Country Director El-Khidir Daloum.
“We are outraged by the level of stunting in Karamoja, which remains unacceptably high. Ending stunting is mission possible,” Daloum said.
While child stunting has reduced by roughly one percent every year in Karamoja since 2006, 35 percent of all children under the age of 5 in Karamoja are still stunted.
The Karamoja Nutrition Programme complements other programmes in Karamoja, such as the Karamoja Resilience Support Unit supported by USAID, Irish Aid, and UK aid and GIZ’s programme to improve the reliability of water supply and sanitation in selected health centres, which collectively contribute to a comprehensive multi-sectoral nutrition response to all people across Karamoja.