On the 15th of March the office of the Prime Minister organized the National Nutrition Forum on a theme “Accelerating investment in Nutrition for Sustainable Development”. This was attended by a number of participants ranging from Ministers, Ambassadors, Parliamentarians, Government officials from Local Government, and other supporting ministries, Civil Society Organization, NGOs and Development Partners.
The forum was preceded by a technical review meeting on the 14th March 2018 which focused on reviewing the progress in the implementation of the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan. It was opened by the Minister for General Duties who was represented by the Minister of state for Northern Uganda. A number of nutritional rich products were exhibited at the forum, participants had a chance to interact with the exhibitors and use their products.
In the forum a number of supporting ministries made presentations on the level of progress made regarding nutrition, challenges and their recommendations to scaling up Nutrition in the country. Statements on their contribution to the implementation of the Nutrition Action Plan were as well made by; the Development Partners, Civil Society Organization, Private Sector, Local Governments and the findings of the filling the Nutrient gap study were clearly highlighted.
Among the key nutritional achievements noted were; integration of Nutrition in sector frameworks, production of micro nutrient foods, opening of a laboratory that analyses the fortification of foods in Uganda, mainstreaming of nutrition in district plans and over 90 districts currently have District Nutrition Coordination Committees (DNCCs) for implementation of nutrition activities at district level; the challenges noted were; low staffing at the district level, non-alignment of UNAP to local government budgets, climate changes and high post-harvest loses; recommendations included; improving coordination and planning for nutrition activities, enhancement of policy dialogue, involvement in evidence based advocacy, a strong Monitoring and Evaluation system, promotion of gender equality in nutrition activities, proper use of data to inform policy and decision making and increased investment in Nutrition.
Key to note is that despite the fact that nutrition is still deficient in some parts of the country according to the UDHS 2016 report, the country has registered great progress in the field like stunting reduced from 33% in 2011 to a current 29% ( 2016) close to the NDPII target of 25% by 2020 and wasting had reduced from 5% in 2011 to 4%9 in 2016. There are however some worrying trends that call for joint renewed action by all stakeholders e.g. Anemia in children under 5 years has increased tom53% in 2016 from 49% in 2011.
The business community represented by the chairperson Mama Care Foundation pledged support to nutrition through his food processing factory that he turned into a not for profit company to boost production and supply of Nutritious foods in the country.
The UN Resident Coordinator appreciated the work performed by the Office of the Prime Minister in the coordination of Nutrition activities all over the country and mentioned that despite the fact that much has been achieved more effort is still needed in the field of nutrition. She mentioned that 5.6% of the country’s GDP was lost to malnutrition in children by the year 2009, this poses a tremendous effect on the country’s economy. She added that strengthening investment in Nutrition would act as an ingredient in strengthening Uganda’s economy and concluded that the UN is more than ready to provide the required support in the move.
The Mission Director USAID praised the country’s good climate and mentioned that it should be exploited to boost nutrition and to avoid its adverse effects on the economy (USD 210 million annually in Uganda to nutrition due to malnutrition), further mentioned that UNAP2 development should be fast tracked since it’s an important tool for resource mobilization, the need for a strong system to monitor investment performance, in conclusion she commended the Prime Minister for the strong support and leadership provided for Nutrition activities in the country.
As the forum was being concluded the Government Chief Whip who was representing the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister launched the “National Nutrition Information Platform” to be used in the dissemination of Nutritional information and further made a closing statement in which she highlighted the need to embrace; policy dialogue and engagement of all development partners, Multi-sectoral Nutrition Action Plan, strong investment in Nutrition activities, behavioral change in local communities and sensitivity to nutrition in the implementation of government programmes because of its centrality to Uganda’s economic development. She went ahead and declared the need for adoption and monitoring the implementation of the Agenda for Action that was agreed upon during the forum.