Today, one out of every three children in Uganda is stunted, a key indicator of chronic malnutrition. Beyond the negative consequences for these children and their families, malnutrition is costing Uganda $899 million USD annually, according to a recent Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study. When I attended the Uganda COHA launch event in Kampala, I was impressed by the diversity of stakeholders represented and the fact that malnutrition requires a multi-sector solution.
The Cost of Hunger
Stunted growth—being unusually short in height for one’s age cohort—is associated with chronic malnutrition in the first two years of a child’s life. Stunted children not only face a greater risk of contracting respiratory infections, diarrhea, and anemia, but also experience irreversible damage to physical and cognitive development. This reduces the productivity of the workforce and limits Uganda's longer-term economic development prospects.
The COHAstudy, led by the African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, quantifies the economic and social impacts of stunting. At the COHA launch in Kampala, stakeholders from the World Food Program, World Health Organization, National Planning Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Prime Minister’s Office, and many others came together to examine the staggering costs of malnutrition for Uganda’s productivity and development.
Photo: A focus group researching feeding practices in Bundibugyo, Uganda
with Dr. Scott Ickes, a professor at the College of William and Mary.
What Can Be Done? –The Cost of Improving Nutrition
The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement is an initiative by 41 countries to improve nutrition in women and children. SUN is unique because it recognizes two realities. First, a broad range of partners, from civil society to political actors, need to come together to develop cohesive multi-sector approaches that address the causes and consequences of malnutrition. Second, governments must scale up nationwide nutrition interventions in ways that address the true costs of malnutrition. In 2011, SUN brought together Ugandan stakeholders from varying government ministries, UN agencies, and NGOs to develop the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP), a detailed ‘national costed plan’ which estimates the investments needed to improve nutrition in Uganda.
Photo: A nutrition program in Bundibugyo, Uganda.
Geocoding the Nutrition Baseline
Mobilizing resources and government support is only half the battle. Before moving forward, the current state of nutrition-related activities in Uganda needs to be established so that future progress can be planned effectively and tracked against a baseline. This summer, I have been connecting with SUN stakeholders around Kampala, learning about the process for data collection and working with them to incorporate AidData’s geocoding methodology in mapping nutrition investments. Geocoding—applying subnational geographic coordinates to discrete project activities—is crucial for analyzing how current nutrition investments are addressing malnutrition, in addition to identifying where funds are flowing and from whom.
With the support of the Office of the Prime Minister and RenewedEfforts Against Child Hunger (REACH), I am leveraging AidData’s innovative geocoding methodology to map nutrition assistance and its relationship to key nutrition indicators, such as the prevalence of stunting. Visualizing baseline nutrition investments is a critical first step for distributing resources equitably and efficiently. I’m excited to be involved in helping the Ugandan government and other development partners harness the power of granular, subnational information to inform their efforts.