On our second day in Kampala, we were thrilled to learn about nutrition at Owino Market as part of a scavenger hunt activity. We interviewed a food vendor who was selling cooked foods ranging from matooke (mashed and steamed green bananas), rice, posho (maize flour cakes), ground nuts, beans, beef and vegetable sauces. Once we introduced ourselves as students, it was challenging to get consent from the vendors since they were under the impression that we would be wasting their time and interfere with their business. However, we were able to chat briefly with one of the vendors, who told us that her regular customers are mostly sellers of other goods in the market. We also observed that vendors only had a small space (approximately 4 square meters) to cook, serve, allocate sitting area for customers to have their meals, and also to wash dirty dishes. Can you imagine fitting 20 such stalls side by side in close proximity, with only a small path for customers to access the area? This is precisely the case at Owino, and overcrowding makes it difficult to maintain food hygiene and sanitary practices.
On day four, we journeyed to Rakai District in Western Uganda and visited Kalisizo Hospital, a government hospital that services Rakai Village and its surrounding community. There, we made our way to the child care ward, where Mathias, a practicing nutritionist greeted us and explained the local state of malnutrition in children. Generally, the two main causes of malnutrition in children five years or below are a lack of food diversity and lack of awareness as to what comprises a healthy diet. A parent might be able to afford eggs, but would, at the request of the child, trade it for a soda without knowing the implications of this purchase on child development.
To combat malnutrition, the hospital relies on a limited stock of therapeutic milk (F-75, F-100) and Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), which are obtained from Non-Governmental Organizations like USAID or from nearby refugee camps. Typically, a malnourished child is fed 1 packet of F-75 daily for a week to revive his/her metabolic system, and then 1 packet of F-100 daily for two weeks. Following this therapy, Mathias and his team would supply the child’s parents with two weeks’ worth of RUTF, therapeutic food containing all the essential nutrients (sugars, proteins, lipids and vitamins) to meet the child’s daily calorie requirement. One major challenge that Kalisizo hospital faces is inadequate resources. With only 100 beds, malnourished children are often placed in the same ward for children with malaria or pneumonia, and this greatly increases the risk of infection among children.
During our home stay with our host family in Rakai, we experienced the common diet of a rural family in Uganda. Families in rural Rakai often practice subsistence farming, otherwise known as hand-to-mouth farming. Most common staple foods include matooke, rice and Irish potatoes. Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, yams, maize, millet and cassava are also served. A typical meal can consist solely of staple foods or a major portion of staple foods with a small portion of protein. Vegetable protein sources are beans and ground nuts. Chicken, eggs, beef and cow’s milk are also available but much less common due to high costs. Common fruits and vegetables are cabbages, tomatoes, onions, eggplants, mangoes, pineapple, pawpaws, jackfruit and passion fruit.