13 October 2017

Uganda: '11 Million Ugandans Eat Unacceptable Food'

Photo: The Observer
Children in Karamoja eating food supplied by Unicef.

At least 11.1 million Ugandans (30 per cent) eat food described as "unacceptable" for human development, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) has said.

This means that those Ugandans are likely to be undernourished or are easy targets for diseases. It also points to just how bad acute food insecurity is in the country today. Without mentioning particular foods, the report says the food described as unacceptable is inferior in quality (nutrients) and volume (amounts).

The statistics body reported in the National Household Survey 2016/17 that acceptable food standards are established by looking at the food diversity, frequency of consumption (the number of days each food group is consumed) and the relative nutritional importance of different foods.

The survey revealed that as many as three million Ugandans (8 per cent) eat the poorest food not fit for human consumption. Also, as many as 8.4 million (22 per cent) were on the borderline between good and bad food.

"Fighting malnutrition is critical to the country's food security situation since this condition is responsible for the deaths of many Ugandans, reduced agricultural productivity and poverty, among others," said Ubos.

According to the 2011 Uganda Nutrition Action Plan, inadequate dietary intake is the main driver of malnutrition, especially due to seasonality in food production, earning patterns, and variability in food prices.

More rural households were found to consume poor food compared to those in urban areas. Kigezi sub-region, Ubos said, had the highest number of households with poor food consumption while Teso has the least.


On the Dietary Energy Consumption (DEC) matrix - which is the food available for human consumption, usually expressed in kilocalories or kilojoules per person per day - Ubos found that Busoga and Bugisu sub-regions were the most food-deprived regions.

"Calories are units of energy, contained within food, and used by the human body to maintain daily health and life. Calories are associated with energy that is contained in protein, carbohydrates and fat," says Foodassets.com, an online journal.

"The energy your body needs in order to stay healthy and alive is directly related to the number of calories you eat. The inverse is also true; too many calories consumed can lead to weight problems and poor health," says another online source.

The average DEC in Uganda, Ubos said, stands at 1,464 kcal/person/day. Female-headed households, it added, were consuming more diet-rich food compared to the male-headed families.

On the sub-regional level, West Nile enjoys the highest calories intake at 1,755kcal/person/day followed by Ankole (1,752 kcal/person/day), Teso (1,717kcal/person/day) while Tooro consumed 1,670 kcal/person/day.

Bugisu registered the lowest calories per day at just 1,051 kcal/person/day.

What this means is that there are more people in Busoga and Bugisu either going hungry or having a single meal per day. It also points to the fact that whatever they eat does not have the required nutrients for appropriate human development.

These trends speak to poverty levels which informs people's lack of access to calories or energy-rich foods. For poor countries like Uganda, appropriate food consumption rhymes with improvement in income levels.

Uganda's kilocalories intake is below the developing countries' average, which is 2,800 kcal/person/day. Developed countries consume up to 3,440 kcal/person/day.

According to UN agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the growth in food consumption has been accompanied by significant structural changes and a shift in diet away from staples such as roots and tubers towards more livestock products and vegetable oils.

Ubos found that the number of Ugandans living below the poverty line has increased to 10 million people in 2016/17, from 6.6 million three years ago.


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