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World Food Program calls for end to high rates of impaired
growth among children in semi-arid North eastern Uganda

'Stunting' is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated
infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age
is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

MOROTO Uganda (Xinhua) --
The UN World Food Program (WFP) has called for more efforts to stop the high level of child stunting in semi-arid northeastern Uganda also known as Karamoja.

Ryan Anderson, acting deputy WFP country director, told Xinhua in an interview on Friday that the stunting rates in the region of over 1 million people stands at 35.5 percent, which is above the World Health Organization threshold of 15 percent.

"We have made a lot of progress with government in the last 10-15 years.

"In 2006, it was nearly 50 percent and in 2016 it is at 35 percent.

"This is very good progress, but still a very long way to go to get to acceptable levels and reach ultimate goal of zero by 2030," he said.

"We need more efforts.

"We need to look at agricultural production, address food insecurity, provide social protection, education and providing nutrient foods to prevent it." he said.

Stunting is a result of chronic malnutrition and regular undernourishment.

Sarah Zeid, a visiting global advocate of WFP’s work in improving nutrition and wellbeing of women, children and adolescents around the world, told Xinhua here in the northeastern district of Moroto that the high stunting rates were ‘deeply worrying’.

"We can do more and we can do better.

"The impact of malnutrition during the first 1,000 days, not only has life-long health and nutrition consequences on the individual, but also socio-economic development consequences at the household, community and national level," said Zeid.

"What is required here is a timely multi-sectoral, holistic and integrated approach.

"Tackling nutrition, you need to be looking at food scarcity, looking at climate mitigation and you need to be providing the health needs," she said.

Zeid hailed China for its support to the region, describing it as incredible and extraordinary assistance.

China, through WFP, this year provided emergency food aid worth 5 million U.S. dollars to Karamoja to benefit some 130,000 school going children to have two meals a day for the next ten months.

"This is essential, critical and extraordinary contribution because it means the children will come to school, children will stay in school, the teachers can focus in school because they are also fed and are given a little bit of food because they have families to provide for," she said.

WFP said it is working with government through health centers to provide pregnant, nursing women and children aged 6-23 months with nutritious meals in order to prevent stunted growth.

The agency said in 2017, it provided specialized nutritious food to some 50,000 children under 2 years as well as pregnant and lactating women at the government health centers in Karamoja region.

This year, the agency targets to reach some 97,000 moderately acute malnourished children below five years of age.


UN Children’s Fund says three-in-five babies not breastfed within first hour of life

UNITED NATIONS New York: (Xinhua) -- Three-in-five babies, mostly born in low-and middle-income countries, are not breastfed within the first hour of life, placing them at higher risk of death and disease, according to a new United Nations report launched on Tuesday.

"When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything," UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on the eve of World Breastfeeding Week.

"In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death," she added.

In the report, Capture the Moment, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) note that while newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive, they estimate that 78 million newborns are excluded.

Each year, millions of newborns miss out on the benefits of early breastfeeding and the reasons, all too often, are things we can change," she said.

"Mothers simply don’t receive enough support to breastfeed within those crucial minutes after birth, even from medical personnel at health facilities."

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from Aug. 1 to 7 to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world by providing infants with the nutrients they need.

Even a few hours delay after birth could pose life-threatening consequences.

Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, which is produced ahead of regular milk, in the first few days after giving birth.

It is so rich in nutrients and antibodies, that it is often referred to as the baby’s first vaccine.

According to the report, 65 percent of countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have the highest rate of breastfeeding within the first hour, while East Asia and the Pacific have the lowest rate with only 32 percent benefitting from the early initiation.

While nearly nine-in-10 babies born in Burundi, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu are breastfed within that first hour, only two-in-10 born in Azerbaijan, Chad and Montenegro were nursed.

"Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

"We must urgently scale up support to mothers, be it from family members, health care workers, employers and governments, so they can give their children the start they deserve."

Analyzing data from 76 countries, the report reveals some of the reasons why too many newborns are left waiting.

One common practice is to discard colostrum, and instead feed the infant honey, sugar water or infant formula, which also delays a newborn’s first critical contact with the mother.

The rise in elective C-sections also has an impact, with a study across 51 countries noting that in this type of delivery, initiation rates among newborns are significantly lower.

Earlier studies, cited in the report, show that newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33 percent greater risk of dying, compared to those who breastfed within one hour. And the risk more than doubled among newborns who started a day or more after birth.

The report urges governments and other decision-makers to adopt strong legal measures to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes to help address the situation.

The WHO and UNICEF-led Global Breastfeeding Collective also released the 2018 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which tracks progress for and urges countries to advance breastfeeding policies and programs to help mothers breastfeed their babies in the first hour of life.


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