With an audience of over 61 Members of Parliament (MPs), government agencies & ministries development partners, media and so on, the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga, launched the Parliamentary Forum on Nutrition (PFN) at the Office of the President on 20th June, 2017. The keynote speaker of the event was the Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister of Uganda.
The theme for the launch of the PFN was “harnessing the potential of Parliament to improve Nutrition in Uganda”. The launch kicked off with a walk around Parliament grounds accompanied by a band comprised of the Uganda Traffic Police.
“The launch of the PFN is coming at a time when the number of people facing food insecurity is on the rise,” said the Chairperson of the PFN, Hon. Kamusiime Innocent Pentagon, during his remarks. Hon. Kamusiime, whose constituency is Kyankwanzi, gave an overview of aims, objectives and rationale of the PFN. Notable were:
- Despite the efforts aimed at reducing malnutrition, the problem has persisted and it continues to put a huge burden on Uganda’s socio-economic development.
- The Parliament being one of the 3 arms of government, is ably suited to be a major champion for lobbying for increased resources in improving nutrition; having more parliamentarians engaged in nutrition matters can sway legislation and policy for the betterment of the nutrition agenda.
Hon. Kamusiime also acknowledged those heavily invested in furthering the nutrition agenda during his remarks and some were later on presented with awards.
The next speaker was the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, who noted in his keynote speech that if Uganda were to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vision 2040, we needed healthy and productive citizens. Therefore to ensure a healthy and productive nation, nutrition has to be frontrunner.
Hon. Rugunda was disheartened to note that Uganda has shamefully high rates of anaemia and is still considered among countries highly burdened by undernutrition, irrespective of the decrease in stunting from 33.3% to 29% according to 2016 UDHS results. He observed that it might be due to the persistent malnutrition in the regions of Tooro, Bugisu, Karamoja and West Nile, which need special attention.
The Prime Minister assured the continued work of the Nutrition Secretariat under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to coordinate nutrition programs and activities. He welcomed the PFN as a stepping stone towards the launch of the National Nutrition Policy.
The Prime Minister was followed by the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga. She was enthused with the level of activism displayed by the current 10th Parliament. She corroborated the Prime Minister on the launch of the PFN being followed by the launch of the National Nutrition Policy and she further recommended following that with a National Nutrition Bill. She left the audience with several tasks:
- Look at homes around the country and figure out the basic foods needed so that we can focus and ensure the basic foods are always available in all homes.
- Take an interest in the foods served and eaten in schools to make sure our children are gtting the right nutrition.
- Involve and task the local cultural leaders such as Gombolola chiefs in nutrition matters for areas where they reside.
The Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga concluded by requesting the audience to be visible and relevant in all that we do.
Several more presentations were made with regards to nutrition in the country before the launch ended, such as: a presentation on Nutrition Coordination & Programming; The Role of Parliamentarians in Nutrition & Development; Nutrition Programmes & Interventions; and Food Security & its impacts on Nutrition Outcomes.
written by Tracy Lukiya Birungi