An evidence based cost effective intervention aimed at addressing the high prevalence of anaemia and other micro-nutrient deficiencies among Ugandan children has been unveiled.
The ‘Home Food Fortification using Vitamin and Mineral Powders’ program’s major aim is to prevent anaemia which stands at 50% nationwide among children.
The program is targeting children from 6 -23 months. Parents and care givers of this target group will receive 15 sachets of Vitamin and Mineral Powder every month.
The Vitamin and Mineral powder is a mix of 15 vitamins and minerals that are essential for the good health of children aged 6-23 months.
One sachet of powder will be mixed in the infants’ soft mashed food and porridge per day.
While launching the program in Kampala, the Director General of Health services in the Ministry of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng noted that this will prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies, reduce illness and improve the nutritional quality of the children’s food. She however warned that the Vitamin and Mineral powder is not a substitute to breast milk, urging parents to exclusively breastfeed the children up to six months and continue even as they use the powder.
According to Dr. Aceng, Home Food fortification is in line with the second goal in the Sustainable Development Goals that calls for the need to end hunger, achievement of food security and improved nutrition and promotion of sustainable agriculture.
She noted that Micronutrient deficiency also known as “hidden hunger” is a major public health problem in Uganda with many people, especially children, not getting adequate vitamins and minerals from the food they eat every day.
“Their diet lacks diversity and is majorly plant based, consisting of staple foods such as plantains/bananas, starchy roots and grains. These staples generally lack the necessary energy and micronutrient density required for proper growth and development. Iron, Vitamin A, Folic acid, Iodine, calcium, B-vitamins and zinc are the most common mineral and vitamin deficiencies affecting mostly children and women of reproductive age” Dr. Aceng said.
Dr. Aceng highlighted some of the adverse effects of anaemia and micronutrient deficiencies including delayed cognitive development that results in mental retardation, poor learning ability and low IQ.
The ministry already has in place ongoing nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions like Vitamin A supplementation, Therapeutic zinc supplementation as a part of diarrhea management, De-worming, Integrated management of acute malnutrition, industrial food fortification Salt iodization program, environmental health and the Malaria control programs among others.
She expressed concern over the lifestyle of youths who prefer chicken, fries and liver, among other foods to vegetables and boiled food which says puts their health at risk.
Malnutrition can lead to stunting, underweight and wasting among children.
According to statistics from the ministry of health, stunting among children is at 33%, 14% of children are under weight, while wasting which is low weight for height is at 5%. Malnutrition contributes to 45% child deaths in Uganda.
The Home food fortification program is supported by development partners; USAID, World Food Program, UNICEF, and SPRING.