By Solomon Hamala
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture has urged government to absorb the feeding of micronutrient foods into the lower school curriculum in a bid to fight malnutrition amongst children below the age of five years.
Major General David Kyomukama made the remarks while touring schools benefiting from the Uganda multi sectoral food security and nutrition program in Bugiri, Bugweri and Iganga districts today February 14.
Micronutrient foods that can be grown in schools legumes, vegetables, sweet potatoes and pumpkins.
He said some parents prefer feeding their children on spicy foods like chips, chicken and meat leaving out micro nutrient diet which is highly rich in phosphorous zinc vital in the brain development of a child.
“It’s a simple meal that can cost less compared to the spicy ones that have no great food value,” he said.
Kyomukama who was flanked by the National Project Coordinator Multi Sectoral Food Security and Nutrition Program in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Julius Twinomatsiko urged parents to encourage their parents to plant micro nutrient foods in their home gardens in order to increase on food security besides providing a balanced diet.
“We should emphasize on empowering homesteads because this is where the problem of poverty starts from,” he said.
He appealed to Ugandans to adopt commercial farming instead of subsistence agriculture in order to improve on their household incomes.
Kyomukama urged Bugiri district leaders to seriously address the problem of malnutrition and stunted growth amongst children saying its greatly affecting the children especially at the primary leaving examinations.
“Much as donors are injecting in huge sums of money to fight malnutrition there is great need by leaders on the ground to rally locals embrace feeding habits of micronutrient foods,” he said.
He said 29 percent of children in the district are stunted while 11 percent are underweight, 66 percent of school going children attend lessons while hungry.
The resident district commissioner Bugiri, Hajji Ramathan Walugembe urged government set tough penalties to parents who fail to provide lunch to their children while at school.
Walugembe said despite efforts by district leaders to mobilize parents contribute maize for feeding their children at school majority are reluctant thinking it’s the burden of government.
“Some of our parents still have a negative attitude of thinking that because education is open to all therefore food should also be free” he said.
He urged locals to immunize themselves against COVID 19 virus in order to avoid developing severe symptoms or dying upon contracting it.
“Some people are moving around spreading rumors that the COVID 19 vaccine causes impotency which is not true,” he said.
The national project coordinator multi sectoral food security and nutrition project Julius Twinomatsiko said since resumption of the program in 567 government aided primary schools across Busoga region cases of domestic violence amongst married couples had drastically reduced because families are able to acquire food feed their children leaving the surplus for sale cater for their house hold needs.
“Unlike in the past now families are able to feed well on a balanced diet and buy basic essentials needs like salt, sugar,” he said.
Twinomatsiko urged schools seek ways of sustaining the project even after the program period expires ensure children continue benefiting by eating micro nutrient foods.
However some members of the public have come up to criticize the program saying its benefiting school heads instead of the learners.
According to a popular social analyst in Bugiri, Christine Namukasa said most school heads sell of proceeds from the project to buyers and later divert the funds to their own personal use rendering the program meaningless.
“The main target as to why the donor offered the grant was to benefit this child from a humble family but they are being denied that opportunity,” she said.
Namukasa urged district leaders to always carry abrupt visits to beneficiary schools across the country in a bid to phase out the bad practice of sell of produce by school heads from project gardens.