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Undernutrition and Obesity in Uganda a Big Concern-H.E Rhoda Tumusiime

Former AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture H.E Rhoda Tumusiime addresses the NARO-Mak Conference on Day 2 13th November 2018, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda

Undernutrition remains one of the biggest contributors to global child mortality linked to about 45% of deaths among children under the age of five. Meanwhile ten (10) million children are overweight with old people obesity on the rise especially amongst women.

While speaking during  the NARO-Mak Conference on 13th November 2018, former  African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture H.E Rhoda Tumusiime informed participants that poor quality diet poses a greater  threat to public health than either malaria, tuberculosis or measles.

The 2nd Joint National Agricultural Research Organisation & Makerere University (NARO-Mak) & 1st Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition Annual Scientific Symposium(12th -15th November 2018) was officially opened by the Prime Minister of the republic of Uganda represented by Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut on 12th November 2018.

H.E. Tumusiime noted that global diets are changing due to rapid urbanization and rising incomes which make people to move away from traditional diets. The unfortunate bit, according to the former AU Commissioner, is that diets are not necessarily changing for the better.

L-R:  Dr. Daniel Waiswa (Mak), Dr. Ahmed Kablan (USAID), Prof. Patrick Webb (Tufts University), Dr. Yona Baguma (NARO and Session Chair), H.E. Rhoda Tumusiime and Edgar (WFP) during the opening session on Day2 of the NARO-Mak Conference, 13th November 2018, Kampala Uganda

She also observed that, rising incomes give access to greater diversity of foods but also to more highly processed and sugary foods that promote poor health.

“In Uganda, the current urban population of 10.525million is predicted to almost double by 2030 to 19.914 million and more than quadruple by 2050 to 46,664 million.

34% of urban women are already overweight or obese as compared with 20% of rural women. 16% of urban men are overweight or obese as compared with 6% rural men”, Tumusiime said.

She reminded participants that the food crises of the  2007/8 brought agriculture to  the world’s attention with the international community coming together to discuss food security as the major focus.

Now, with the nutrition challenge, she said, policy makers are beginning to understand the need to integrate nutritional goals into agricultural research and development, shifting the language from ‘hunger and food security’ to ‘food systems and diets”.

Some of the participants listen to proceedings on Day2 of the NARO-Mak Conference, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda

Tumusiime said an emphasis on agriculture is correct but implored researchers, policy makers, the private sector and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to make it bigger by integrating nutrition.

“…The type of food we focus efforts on (mainly starchy staples) does not match the types of food we need for example  fruits, vegetables and pulses).

For example about 45% of the global private sector research investment is on maize with little attention to nutritious crops such as fruits and vegetables, pulses, seeds and nuts.” She said.

Tumusiime however, appreciated that Uganda’s social and economic development has been matched by excellent progress in tackling undernutrition in recent years.

“But we have reached an important decision moment. We are now experiencing an emerging ‘triple burden’ of malnutrition.

Some individuals lack enough Basic calories and micronutrients. Stunting amongst children is really high at 29%. Diet – related non-communicable diseases will bring additional costs to health services in the future”. She stated.

She was optimistic that Uganda’s progressive approach and ability to rise to challenges shows that it can be a leader in Africa and the global community as the Commission strives to provide safe, affordable and health diets for all.

Report compiled by:
Jane Anyango
Principal Communication Officer CAES

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