The Role of Fathers in Tackling Malnutrition in Infants in Southwestern Uganda
Researchers at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda have investigated the extent to which fathers contribute to the reduction of malnutrition in their infants. The results of this study with 344 fathers from Ugandan infants, living in a rural region in the southwest of the country, were published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism (1).
The Ugandan on average 40-year-oldfathers mainly gave material assistance to the nutritional status of their under five years old children. For example, 93,6 % of the men interviewed provided money to buy food for their families, 47 % financed their women’s transport to children’s hospitals that also provide food assistance. Only few men have advised or supported their wives in choosing suitable foods for the children, assisting them in deciding to breastfeed (for a longer period) or relieved them in home and field work, due to a lack of necessary skills. Nevertheless, few fathers still expressed their desire to know more about feeding of their children.
The authors of the study argue that fathers’ social support for mothers is indispensable for alleviating malnutrition in infants. With this assessment, they reaffirm the position of the Ugandan Ministry of Health, which urges the fathers’ commitment to optimal child nutrition in the Nursing and Infant Nutrition Policy (2).
At the beginning of the study, the degree of stunting (reduced body length in relation to age) and wasting (too low body weight compared to age) as well as the low birth weight were recorded. 30 % of the children examined were stunted, 7,5 % were wasted and 14,8 % did not have a sufficient birth weight. Malaria, which affected about one in five children, had also weight-reducing effects. Additional factors for weight loss were diarrhea and pneumonia.
Besides the beneficial effects to the care provided in children’s hospitals, a good nutritional status of the children has also been attributable in particular to functional hand washing systems in the households as well as clean water from boreholes.
(1) N. Kanslime et al. Effect of Male Involvement on the Nutritional Status of Children Less Than 5 Years: A Cross Sectional Study in a Rural Southwestern District of Uganda. J Nutr Metab.;2017:3427087. Epub 2017 Dec 4., available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5733895/
(2) The authors refer to UBOS. National Household Survey 2009/20 10. Uganda Bureau of Statistics Kampala, Uganda, 2010 and MOH. Child Survival Strategy for Uganda 2008 – 2015. Ministry of Health of Uganda, 2009.