Arua district leaders have raised concerns over the increasing cases of malnutrition among children due to inadequate breastfeeding. This is mostly among the teenage mothers who conceive without proper planning. Statistics from the first COVID-19 lockdown indicates that Arua district registered over 700 teenage pregnancy cases and most of the perpetrators abandoned the girls to dodge any possible arrest and of these only 5 percent were married off and the majority left to struggle with the babies. While launching the World breast feeding week at the district headquarters under the theme, “Breastfeeding a shared responsibility”, Arua district leaders observed that several of these young mothers do not care about the health of their babies, their personal hygiene and the breastfeeding environment and others wean their babies before six months which deprives the child’s growth. The district health educator Gasper Drani says Ajia and Arivu sub counties are major hot spots in cases of malnutrition. “Most of our children under five years are malnourished, we had Adumi in Arua City but now the two sub counties of Ajia and Arivu are leading and one of the reasons is mothers wean babies in the earlier months before six year”, he said. Sandra Ewachabo the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer in charge of Maternity Health Arua District says most of the children get infected from the mothers breast milk due to poor hygiene adding that the single mothers are the greatest culprits. “Some mothers don’t pay attention to their breasts. The children suckle after they leave to the flies, the houseflies suckle the leave to the children and yet we have known that breastfeeding is supposed to avoid diseases, so that’s how our children get infected. We must change the attitude of poor health among mothers.” Ewachabo said. However, with the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdowns in Uganda, livelihood for most teenage mothers became difficult as they could not have a complete dietary circle to provide enough breast milk for exclusive feeding for the babies coupled with lack of support from family members. Drateru Natalia, the chairperson social services Arua district urge parents to help out the teenage mothers to bring up better children. “You are a young boy, you have made a young girl to be mother and you decide to run away from her, how do you expect a better brilliant child? Maybe the child might be a bright one because he’s poorly fed them the child becomes dull in mind and in every activity. So let’s labour as parents to ensure pregnant girls are given proper care and the child is raised in a very good way so that we have bright productive children”, she said. Meanwhile the District Health Inspector Manase Anziku appeals to institutions and other employers to consider putting up spaces for breastfeeding mothers to help their babies. “We should create spaces to cater for working mothers in every institution and other employment arena such that they will breastfeed their babies in time other than leaving the child 5-6Km away and they are not breastfed in time.” The World breastfeeding week was declared to run from 1st to 7th August every year to create awareness on the benefits of breastfeeding and reawakening the male heads of homes on their contributions towards raising the children. In several districts of northern Uganda and the West Nile sub region, severe acute malnutrition, wasting and stunting in children are highly prevalent. According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey UDHS, malnutrition in the region stood at a towering 10.4 per cent.
COVER PHOTO: Most teenage mothers are grappling with offering quality breast milk to limited dietary suplements. Photo UNICEF Uganda 2020 Adriko.