Ugandan Scientists Hope To End Child Malnutrition with Special Sweet Potato

Fredrick Ngugi Oct 19, 2016 at 07:30am

October 19, 2016 at 07:30 am | Tech & Innovation

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

October 19, 2016 at 07:30 am | Tech & Innovation

Despite the tremendous advances made over the years, a significant number of children in Africa still endure everyday hunger and malnutrition. The results have been devastating since prolonged malnutrition has been found to cause serious physical and mental problems.

Experts argue that the majority of cases of perennial hunger in Africa can be avoided through good governance and better farming practices, and in Uganda, scientists believe they have found a long-term solution to child malnutrition, reports BBC.

With a new breed of sweet potato, Ugandan scientists believe they will be able to address the problems of food shortage and hunger in the country.

Using bio-fortification, a team of Ugandan scientists led by Dr. Robert Mwanga, grafted local varieties of sweet potato with foreign species to generate a breed with higher levels of vitamin A.

Improved Health and Steady Income

The new sweet potato is different from the indigenous species in Africa as it is highly rich in orange pigment, which scientists say is important to preventing vitamin A deficiency.

“The thing we like about this orange potato is that when we eat it, we don’t fall sick often. We make money from selling it too,” 45-year-old Agnes Kalya, a Ugandan farmer, says.

At least 44 percent of farmers in Uganda grow sweet potatoes, particularly the white varieties, which experts say lack vital nutrients. But now these farmers are happy to try the new breed, which guarantees them multiple benefits.

Apart from improving their daily nutrient intake, this breed of sweet potato gives Ugandan farmers high yields, providing rural families with a steady source of food throughout the year.

Experts now say this sweet potato will help Ugandans save money on vitamin A capsules and tablets and also significantly reduce the child mortality rate in the country.

Child Mortality in Uganda

While child mortality in Uganda has been on a steady decline in recent years, latest studies place Uganda among the 24 developing countries that are responsible for 80 percent of child deaths registered in 2015, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

The under-5 mortality rate in Uganda is still above 100 per 1,000 live births, which is the highest in East Africa, according to the Daily Monitor.

In addition, chronic under-nutrition in children is still a critical issue, with close to 30 percent of households considered food insecure, according to USAID.

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