KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
“What’s on your plate?” asked KIHEFO counsellors and CFHI students last week to two different demographics: primary school students at Rubira School, and women and caretakers at the monthly Nutrition Assessment in Kabale.
It’s a new approach to nutrition counselling at KIHEFO; a hands-on activity that inspires participants to reassess the locally available foods and identify which foods belong to the five different food categories that are essential to child and maternal health: energy giving foods, protective foods, body building foods, fats and oil, and liquids.
The resource was built from KIHEFO’s Nutrition Guide, a simple, visual-based resource that was created by Nikki Janzen, a nutrition student graduate from the University of Saskatchewan, who spent three months with KIHEFO in the summer of 2013.
Nikki conducted a series of household visits that looked at nutrition in rural southwestern Uganda, and worked closely with KIHEFO’s health departments (from the General Clinic, Nutrition Centre and HIV Clinic) to identify locally available foods (both cultivated and wild) for poor rural households.
Child Family Health International (CFHI) students recently adapted KIHEFO’s resource into a fun, high-energy activity that engages participation amongst women and children.
Malnutrition is a serious problem in southwestern Uganda — an area that is paradoxically known as the ‘Bread Basket’ of Uganda because of the high food production — for both children under five and women/caretakers, as well.
Malnutrition in babies under two years can cause stunting and developmental delays. For women, the effects of malnutrition can even follow a girl into her reproductive years. Women who experienced malnutrition during childhood are at serious risk for experiencing obstructed labor because the pelvis is too small for the baby to pass through, which can also lead to obstetric fistula (tearing caused by childbirth) and have devastating physical and social consequences. For school children, malnutrition can lead to poor concentration in school and the high rates of drop-out, or students who don’t finish primary seven.
“What’s on your plate?” is an activity that inspires participants to look beyond their sweet potato gardens (the staple food crop in Kabale) and try to diversify their diets by accessing locally available foods, including avocado, wild spinach and greens, mushrooms, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
While most households only consume meat on Christmas or other holidays and celebrations (two to three times a year), KIHEFO is also encouraging women to raise rabbits as an alternative protein and iron source.
Malnutrition in southwestern Uganda, from KIHEFO’s perspective, isn’t always caused by the lack of food, but rather lack of knowledge about the locally available foods.
KIHEFO looks forward to sharing the learning activity with more women, caretakers and community groups, along with children and youth at primary and secondary schools. Solutions to malnutrition are more effective when they involve participatory learning and teaching from local communities — this is KIHEFO’s fundamental approach to changing behaviours and improving health.
Inspired to get involved? Visit KIHEFO’s official website – click here.