Ms. Sarah Ngalombi, a Senior Nutritionist at Uganda’s Ministry of Health (PHOTO/Courtesy).
KAMPALA —Government is set to rollout new multiple micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women, a health official has said.
The new supplementation, already on trial in Napak and Busoga region will help to reduce on a number of children born with birth defects but also improve on health outcomes for mothers and their babies.
The development was revealed by Ms. Sarah Ngalombi, a Senior Nutritionist at Uganda’s Ministry of Health during the Nutrition Society of Uganda (NSU) dialogue on stunting held at Makerere University’s College of Food and Nutrition on Friday, November 11.
“The country is going to introduce multiple micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women. You all know that pregnancy is a stage where the woman’s demands increase drastically and we’ve been using iron and folic acid supplementation and we’ve realized that there are a number of challenges with this iron and folic acid supplementation,” Ms. Ngalombi told reporters at the sidelines of the dialogue.
The rollout of multiple micronutrient supplementation, she said has been informed by a research study whose findings are expected to be released later this month.
“We have carried out research and that’s why we are introducing a formulation of multiple micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women”.
Ngalombi told reporters that the Ministry of Health has started working on the guidelines for its use before official rollout.
The multiple micronutrient supplementation, Ngalombi said will contribute to improving maternal nutrition, birth outcomes and reducing stunting.
Quoting evidence from unnamed study, Ngalombi said also multiple micronutrient supplementation is more effective and cost-effective than iron and folic acid supplementation in improving birth outcomes and equally prevents anaemia during pregnancy.
Dr. Daisy Owomugasho, The Hunger Project Regional Director for East Africa said the introduction of multiple micronutrient supplementation into antenatal care is an important step in preventing anaemia during pregnancy, which is currently an issue that too many women in Uganda face.
Owomugasho said civil society organizations under a consortium Right 2Grow are working with the government agencies to create systems in place that can address mal nutrition and stunting issues.
“We are working with the office of the Prime Minister who heads the nutrition aspect to make sure that we have nutrition in the budgets,” she said.
Dr. Owomugasho however, noted that although a great deal of progress is being made in reducing malnutrition, it is still too slow and too uneven, while some forms of malnutrition, namely adult overweight and obesity, are actually increasing.
She emphasized that a virtuous circle of improved nutrition and sustainable development can be unleashed if action to address malnutrition in all its forms can be embedded within key development sectors.
Recognizing the critical role of nutrition in achieving sustainable development, there is need to strengthen national accountability on nutrition targets, ensure implementation of the Nutrition for Growth Compact adopted in 2013, invest in delivering better nutrition outcomes from existing funding and increase funding for nutrition action from the current 1% – 2% allocation government and donor funding.
Limited data available in Uganda shows that among children younger than 5 years, 53% suffer from anemia, 29% from stunting, and 11% from underweight.
Among women of reproductive age, 32% have anemia and 9% suffer from underweight, while 24% are overweight or have obesity, according to Demographic Health Survey 2016.
These data suggest a high risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies among vulnerable populations in Uganda.