From Innovation to Scale-up: Using Local Solutions to Reduce Malnutrition in Uganda

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In recent years, the global health community has been focusing more of its efforts and resources on fighting malnutrition—a complex problem that contributes to 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of five worldwide. Chronically malnourished children are, on average, nearly 20 percent less literate than those who have a nutritious diet. Thus, malnutrition can shape a society’s long-term health, stability, and prosperity.

In Uganda, malnutrition contributes to about 60 percent of child mortality. The 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey found that 33 percent of children were stunted and that only 6 percent of children aged 6 to 23 months were fed appropriately, based on the recommended infant and young child feeding practices. Household food insecurity, poor nutrition, and inadequate access to health care all contribute to the problem. Malnourished children and their caregivers often trek long distances for assistance at health facilities, which routinely lack supplies and trained staff. In addition, families frequently lack funds to support proper recovery.

In March 2011, the STRIDES for Family Health program—funded by USAID and implemented by MSH in partnership with Jhpiego, Meridian International and the Ugandan organization Communication for Development Foundation—conducted a nutritional survey in 13 districts in three regions of Uganda, taking anthropometric measurements of 2,654 randomly sampled children between the ages of 0 and 59 months.

The survey revealed an average prevalence rate of global acute malnutrition (GAM) based on weight-for-age assessment of 17.3 percent. The survey also found that 10.9 percent of children suffered from moderate acute malnutrition and 6.4 percent had severe acute malnutrition. The Eastern region had the lowest GAM prevalence rate at 16.3 percent, while the Central region had the highest with 18.2 percent. Prevalence in the Western region was 17.4 percent.