Kagera takes swift action to control micronutrient deficiency

KAGERA Regional Commissioner (RC), Ms Fatma Mwassa, has appealed for joint efforts aimed at dealing with micronutrient deficiency which will include fortifying school meals.

Addressing stakeholders in Bukoba Municipal Council over the weekend Ms Mwassa said the rate of stunting among children aged below five years was still   high at 34.4 per cent.

“Urgent action is thus needed to control micronutrient deficiency including fortifying school meals. Councils and all stakeholders should join hands to find a lasting solution,” she said.

Ms Mwassa explained that Kagera Region has conducive weather for production of cash and food crops and the region also has abundant food varieties.

“There is no reason why we should have malnutrition among the people. What is needed is to educate the people especially pregnant women on the kind of food to eat,” she said.

A Senior Nutrition Officer from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Mr Peter Kaja explained that the government had allocated a budget for buying at least 200 dosifier machines for food fortification to be distributed in regions facing acute malnutrition.

A dosifier machine assists food packers in mixing fortified foods, he said.

Mr Archard Ngemela, Zonal Manager from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), on the other hand, explained that at least 240 schools comprising 120,000 pupils   in six Lake Zone regions namely Geita, Simiyu, Kagera Mwanza, Mara and Shinyanga would be provided with fortified foods.

Kagera Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr Kaniki Issessanda explained that lack of folate and folic acid can have adverse effects on a child and very important in the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life.

“When the baby is developing early during pregnancy, folic acid helps form the neural tube.  Folic Acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida). The neural tube forms the early brain and spine,” he said.

“Pregnant women are advised to take folic acid to prevent serious birth defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid is also used for many other conditions including depression, stroke, decline in memory and thinking skills, and many others,” said Dr Issessanda.

Folate and folic acid are forms of Vitamin B9 used for deficiency and to prevent pregnancy complications.

Many foods contain folate or have folic acid added.

Foods that are naturally high in folate include leafy vegetables, certain fruits, beans, yeast, mushrooms, animal liver and kidney, orange juice and tomato juice. Folic acid is also available as a supplement, and is often used in combination with other B vitamins.

Elaborating, Dr Issessanda said hydrocephalus is a condition in which excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) build up within the fluid-containing cavities or ventricles of the brain. CSF is in constant circulation within the ventricles of the brain and serves many crucial functions,” he said.

He listed the  crucial functions…it acts  as a ‘shock absorber’ for the brain and spinal cord, it acts as a vehicle for delivering nutrients to the brain and  removing waste from it and it flows between  the cranium and spine to regulate changes in pressure.

“When CSF builds up around the brain, it can create harmful pressures on the tissues of the brain confined within the skull. The accumulation of CSF occurs due to either an increase in production of the fluid, a decrease in its rate of absorption or from a condition that blocks its normal flow through the ventricular system,” he said.

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