Posted: Thu, February 25, 2016 | By: Uganda
H+ Clinic in rural Bwethe, Uganda, was established in 2015 in a GoFundMe campaign.
Bwethe is located in western Uganda in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains. The 200 children that H+ Clinic serves attend the regional primary school, located just 100 years away from the clinic. A host of diseases afflict these children - malaria, respiratory tract infection, peptic ulcer disease, diarrhea, gastro-intestinal infections, and parasitic worms.
Unfortunately, the susceptibility of the children to infections is increased by malnutrition. Rural Ugandan children often receive only one meal per day, and that meal lacks micronutrients because it is centered on the cassava, the staple food of the Bakonzo tribe that resides in this area. The increasing rate of malnutrition is due to inadequate nutrients like Vitamin A, zinc and iron in food intake, particularly amongst the rural poor. Uganda also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.
A new study by the World Food Programme titled “The Cost of Hunger” indicates that Uganda loses $899 million per year - 5.6% of its gross national product - due to workers frequently sick and less productive “because they lacked the right nutrition as children.” According to the report:
“malnourished children dropping out or underperforming at school subtracts $116 million from an economy in need of educated workers. Lower productivity in sectors such as agriculture cost Uganda another $201 million per year.
The country spends $254 million per year treating cases of diarrhoea, anaemia and respiratory infections linked to malnutrition. Enough children die each year of causes related to hunger to reduce Uganda’s labor force by some 3.8 per cent. That amounts to some 934 million working hours lost every year due to an absent workforce.”
The Minister of State Agriculture, Zerubaberi Nyiira, believes over 2 million Ugandan children live with chronic malnutrition. At a consultative workshop on Nutrient Rich Food Crops, he recently stated:
The minister claimed children aged 0-5 account for 38 per cent of the malnutrition cases, of which 6 per cent are “stunted.” Every year 133,000 “stunted” Ugandan children fail their grade in school and are forced to repeat.
“Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death in nearly 60 per cent of infants and 25 per cent of mothers especially in rural areas which have high incidences of poverty and malnutrition as compared to their urban counterparts.”
To combat the diseases, malnutrition, and loss of future productivity, H+ Clinic has launched a “food drive” to obtain funding for free school lunches. $400 will provide all Bwethe children with a lunch for the upcoming school term. The meal will consist of rice, beans, and local vegetables like pumpkin and eggplant.
H+ Clinic has already aided local economic production due to its availability to Bwethe residents. Treating children’s diseases incurs a tremendous cost in rural Ugandan because it requires parents to take time off work to get their children to a distant doctor in a city.
Before H+ Clinic was established, the closest medical aid was 2.5 hours away, on a foot trail. Bwethe is isolated, with no road access.
Funds donated to the food drive will be sent to H+ Clinic’s manager, Joseph Kasibirehe. He will purchase the food in the nearby village of Kyarumba, and transport it Bwethe on “boda-bodas” - dirt bikes made in China.
Anyone interested in donating can contribute HERE.
Image #2 and #3: H+ Clinic founders visited Bwethe in November 2015, and provided lunch food for one day. Photos by Joseph Kasibirehe.