Japan contributes US$600,000 towards fighting malnutrition in Karamoja

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed a contribution of US$600,000 from the Government of Japan to boost nutrition and prevent deaths of young children in Karamoja region, where households in two out of nine districts have malnutrition above emergency levels.

“This is a very timely and important contribution,” said WFP Country Director El-Khidir Daloum. “Japan has proved its commitment to supporting Uganda by addressing hunger at critical times through WFP and has played its part in both saving and improving people’s lives.”

Daloum said that Japan in the last five years has made generous annual contributions, giving a total of US$15.5 million including the latest support towards WFP’s work in Uganda.

Combined with other contributions, Japan’s funding will provide 244 metric tons of enriched foods to 26,000 children aged under five, pregnant women and new mothers in the worst-hit Moroto and Napak Districts for at least three months to stop overall malnutrition levels increasing.

An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification assessment found that between February and August, rates of life-threatening malnutrition were above Emergency levels in Moroto and Napak. The rest of the region’s districts were in Alert, meaning they also have relatively high levels of malnutrition.

Poor diets, chronic food shortages, poor sanitation and high levels of diarrhoea and malaria were cited as major contributors to the situation. High workloads for mothers and therefore reduced time for breastfeeding and other childcare were also cited as driving malnutrition.

Above-emergency levels of malnutrition call for blanket feeding, which means providing enriched foods to all children aged under five and pregnant women and new mothers in a specific area whether or not they are diagnosed with malnutrition. Blanket supplementary feeding helps reduce levels of malnutrition and the risk of deaths among young children.

The Japanese funding will enable WFP to reach the most vulnerable young children and pregnant and nursing women in Moroto and Napak with blanket supplementary feeding.

Pregnant and nursing women need more nutrients including minerals and vitamins than other women because of changes in their bodies. Malnourished children also have a greater need for nutrients and are more likely to fall sick because of reduced immunity and are at higher risk of death.

“On June 23, the Government of Japan decided to extend Emergency Grant Aid of US$600,000 to Uganda through WFP in response to the likely damage to crops due to desert locusts, and also to cater for often high rates of malnutrition in Karamoja,” said the Ambassador of Japan, Kazuaki Kameda,

“We very much hope the grant will improve the nutritional condition of children aged between 6-59 months and pregnant and nursing women in a region whose food security is also threatened by locusts and other pests, floods and human and animal diseases,” he added.

Karamoja already has high rates of stunting, where children are short for their age, low on immunity and often mentally impaired. Over 35 percent of children aged under five in the region are stunted. High rates of life-threatening and acute malnutrition combined with stunting put the futures of children at stake.