Manafwa, Uganda | URN | Health officials in Manafwa district have reported an escalation of food insecurity, poverty and cases of malnutrition among the marginalized groups during the time of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dr Emma Gahima, the in-charge of Bugobero health center IV and Manafwa district nutrition focal person says that the health facility has received an average of 5 cases of malnourished children aged between zero and five and people living with HIV/AIDS in the weeks after the lockdown restrictions were eased.
Gahima adds that he has also received several alerts from village health teams about children who are suffering from malnutrition and have no means of moving to the health facility due to lack of transport. He says that the lockdown which left a number of people jobless exacerbated the situation because many of them cannot move to look for food and health care services due to the ban on public transport.
He adds that initially, the nutrition team together with Village Health Teams carried out outreach programmes in villages in which residents were taught about family planning as one of the strategies in curbing malnutrition. However with the current restrictions, this cannot be done.
Although the ban on both public and private transport was lifted in many parts of the country, districts at the Ugandan border remained under lockdown as a measure against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Manafwa district in Eastern Uganda is one of those where transport is still restricted.
“These parents would move from their distant villages to this health centre for both medical support and nutritional services that the health facility was offering. But now they cannot move, that is why you see many of them have remained at home to continue suffering,” Dr Gahima said.
Gahima also told this publication that the malnutrition clinic that ran every week to support the malnourished patients with food was closed because the staff who were operating it were unable to reach the facility.
He adds that the impacts of the problem will be visible in future when affected children are unable to offer productive services due to the impact of malnutrition which started at a tender age.
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Robert Wekesa, a Village Health Team Worker says that many malnourished children are stuck in the villages over lack of transport since their parents are unable to move from the villages to the health facilities and that many of them end up dying. He said many of them have been seeking help from the malnutrition clinic that has since been closed.
Simon Malaki, a resident of Buwamayi II village, Madenge village in Mayefe sub-county in Manafwa district has a malnourished child who was left to him by his young brother after birth. Malaki says that the three-year-old has been getting support from the clinic at Bugobero Health Center IV but this stopped with the lockdown restrictions.
At 2pm when this publication visited, Malaki’s home, our reporter found him peeling sweet potatoes which had just been uprooted from the garden. He says his family mainly feeds on these potatoes with no options for a balanced diet which would be ideal for the malnourished child.