KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
Everyday at KIHEFO brings another leaning experience and today was no exception. We set off in the early morning to a local community named Rubira to conduct a health survey. We visited five households to fill out a “Nutrition House Hold Questionnaire”. There were numerous sections to this questionnaire: household characteristics, anthropometric assessment of children under five, a food frequency questionnaire, the mother’s background, reproduction, contraception, pregnancy and postnatal care, child immunization, health and nutrition, marriage and sexual activity, and fertility and preferences. The answers that the mother’s gave to the questions asked were eye opening, but being a nutrition student, the food frequency questionnaire intrigued me the most.
A list of locally available food items where listed, and the mothers were asked how frequently the household consumes these foods, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or never. The results from the different households we interviewed were very similar. For example, the only foods consumed on a daily basis are vegetables, beans and salt (iodized). Some households also had sweet potato on a daily basis, but this is not the same orange sweet potato available back home in Canada, instead the flesh is white, so no beta-carotene. Foods weekly consumed are greens (this is what they call leafy green vegetables in Uganda), Irish potatoes, avocadoes, groundnuts and wild greens and vegetables. On a yearly basis are meats, consumed at special occasions like Christmas and Easter. Finally, the foods never consumed are insects (grasshoppers and ants), fruits and eggs. When analyzing this questionnaire two things jump out at me immediately. First, children should be eating foods that form a complete protein at every meal; vegetables and legumes do not fulfill this requirement. And second, healthy fats are only consumed on a weekly basis, which may impair the body’s ability to fully absorb the fat-soluble vitamins within the diet. After each household questionnaire was completed, the members of the family were given a de-worming tablet, and were told that we would be back in a month’s time for a follow up.
This health outreach initiative was memorable not just because of the responses we received from the questionnaire but also because of the visual appearances of the community children that followed us from household to household. Many were visibly malnourished, with distended stomachs and colored orange hair, signs of kwashiorkor a protein deficiency frequently seen in malnourished infants. As I walked along their side I wanted to take them with me to KIHEFO’s nutrition center in Kabale, but I knew this would only solve their immediate cause of malnutrition. As I see more and more cases of infant malnutrition, I know long-term sustainable solutions need to be presented and implemented within households for positive change to occur. KIHEFO knows this and is working on different programs and community partnerships, like a rabbit-breading program, to increase household food security. Clearly a lot of work needs to be done but with what I have seen so far I am optimistic that KIHEFO can successfully decrease the rate of malnutrition in Kabale and its surrounding rural communities.
All for Now.