BY PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda|SHIFTMEDIA NEWS| “If you don’t make food your medicine, you will make medicine your food. The writing has been put on the wall by food rights activists as the country grapples with increasing cases of Covid 19 deaths and infections.
In an open letter to the ‘Court of Last Resort’, His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the consortium of food rights advocates comprising of Food Rights Alliance, SEATINI, CEFROHT, Consumer Education Trust (Consent), and Hivos East Africa have demanded that Food and Nutrition be included among the listed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
“Good nutrition is necessary before, during, and after an infection. Maintaining a healthy diet is therefore very important during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said M/s. Agnes Kirabo the Food Rights Alliance Uganda Executive Director.
Kirabo who addressed the media at their Namirembe offices noted that SOPs should read: “EAT NUTRITIOUS FOODS, WEAR MASKS, SANITIZE AND KEEP SOCIAL DISTANCE.”
She expressed her concerns regarding the inadequate attention accorded to the Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) given the rising COVID 19 infections. “The Policy Guidelines on Food under the relevant Government ministries, Departments and Agencies have not been fully operationalized in the context of COVID-19,” said Kirabo. Kirabo who was flanked by M/s. Jane Nalunga the Executive Director SEATINI, Counsel David Kabanda, the Executive Director Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) observed that apparent evidence suggests that good nutrition practices and diets rich in micronutrient are key weapons against the virus.
“But in effect, hardly much information is filtering through from Government sources to the citizens on how diet and nutrition boost their immunity and fights the pandemic,” explained Kirabo.
She said once issues of food nutrition are included among the SOPs, the number of infections and death due to COVID -19 will drastically reduce. She urged the government to also consider putting in place a stimulus package for agriculture to help promote the production and consumption of nutritious food.
M/s. Immaculate Daisy Yossa the Hivos East Africa Regional manager said the message of food as a good weapon against the pandemic hasn’t been clearly clarified. “We are not just about eating of any food, but eating nutritious foods,” said Daisy. She noted that much as the Ministry of Health had initially issued guidelines on what foods to eat to boost one’s immunity, the message is not reaching the people down there.
“We are emphasizing the issue of treating and fighting this disease internally,” she said.
Jane Nalunga from SEATINI expressed her dismay regarding government failure to promote the consumption of local nutritious drinks amidst the fizzy ones.
“If you don’t make food your medicine, you will make medicine your food. A number of our regulations are not very supportive of promotion and production of nutritious foods,” said Nalunga. She highlighted aspects such as government failure to increase taxes on fizzy drinks as some of the issues hampering promotion of local nutritious drinks.
“To discourage consumers from consuming fizzy drinks tax them highly so that consumers can consume local nutritious drinks,” she said.
David Kabanda from CEFROHT said government should put statutory instruments on food. “We have a Food and Drug Act, why don’t we have a statutory instrument of food like they have put on wearing of masks, sanitizing and social distancing,” mused Counsel Kabanda.
He said that research has indicated that most homesteads in Wakiso and Kampala don’t have food. “It is very hard for one to observe the SOPs when hungry. We are going to see many Ugandans dying due to Non Communicable diseases,” he said.
Kabanda added further: “We don’t want to see many cases filed by Ugandans against government because their rights have been violated,” he explained.
Dr. Milton Rukundo a nutritionist said due to reduced incomes due to the pandemic, most families are not eating adequate and balanced food.
“When you talk about nutrition, emphasis should be on the diet, and not the meal. The diet should be both adequate and balanced,” he said. He urged Ugandans to eat foods that will prevent them from getting Covid-19. He said foods containing Vitamins A. B and C such as oranges, passions, and lemon and those with zinc, iron, copper, and magnesium such as carrots, Pawpaw, Water Melon, Ginger and Garlic shouldn’t be missed on a daily diet.
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The activists urged President Museveni to instruct all relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies that are developing and dissemination COVID-19 messages to include the consumption of safe and nutritious foods as part of the SOPs.
They also urged the President to direct all district leaders to educate and guide the people of Uganda to produce and consume nutrient-dense foods that have been singled out to have the capacity to boost immunity against COVID 19.