Hunger is silently destroying Uganda’s human capital

resources – especially land – and human capital are the principal pillars of
national building. In Uganda these two assets are deteriorating at an alarming

degradation through de-vegetation, deforestation, overfishing, soil erosion and
fertility loss, climate change – rising temperatures, droughts and floods –
dropping water tables, drying rivers and shrinking lakes are well known to the
authorities and to the public but little is being done to improve the situation.

life – the purpose of this article – starts on the first day of conception. Scientific
studies have established that pregnant mothers who are under-nourished give
birth to infants who are underweight. In Uganda 12 percent of infants are born

infants develop permanent disabilities such as brain damage and face the
prospect of early death. Those who survive to adulthood are likely to suffer
from diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) disease and overweight.

studies have also shown that the brain develops during the first three years
and food and nutrition plays a vital part. In Uganda, 40 percent of children
under the age of five are under-nourished, meaning that their brains do not develop

is a major contributor of death among children. In Uganda – even in areas that
are food surplus like Bushenyi – cases of death attributable to hunger have
been reported. And children who die of hunger go through terrible agony.

strikes when a child is severely malnourished and develops shriveled limbs and
a swollen belly. Without enough calories the body slows down and at a later
stage starts to convert its own proteins for energy.

body breaks down, devouring itself. When
that happens, starvation has begun. The fat goes first, then the muscles, then
the organs – the liver, intestines and kidneys. The endocrine often ceases to
function properly. A shortage of carbohydrates, which play a vital role in
brain chemistry, affects the mind. Lack of interest and confusion set in, so
that starvation victims often seem unaware of their plight.

heart shrinks, the pulse slows and blood pressure drops. The body’s defenses
drop. Often starvation does not kill – infections and diseases do before the
victims have time to starve to death.

no layer of fat between flesh and bone and nothing to pad the pain, the little
heart simply gives up.

is the agony that Uganda’s children who die of hunger and associated diseases go
through. And all this is happening in a country that boasts of food
self-sufficiency and surplus to export and to sell to the World Food Program
for humanitarian purposes. Ugandans and
their development partners should demand that the Uganda government gives
priority to meeting domestic requirements and to sell only surplus.

who do not eat well become physically and mentally under-developed.

of adequate food – in quantity and quality – affects school attendance and
performance especially of girls. It has been demonstrated in developed and
developing countries that when children are served lunches at school they
improve attendance and perform much better.

recognition of the importance of school lunches, the New Partnership for
Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has adopted a policy in this regard using locally
produced foodstuffs.

Uganda has endorsed NEPAD’s school feeding program, it has not been able to
incorporate it in its national programs. Consequently, up to 80 percent of
school children drop out of primary school because they are hungry. And those
who stay perform poorly in examinations contributing to the poor quality of
education and unemployable labor force.

the adult level, statistics show that some 50 percent go to bed hungry. Hungry
people are physically and mentally weak and cannot be expected to perform well.

adverse human capital developments deserve the urgent attention by the
executive and legislative branches of government and the public at large.
Otherwise it is going to be difficult for Uganda to compete in the
international market with such a weak human capital base.

should make human capital development a political issue between now and the
elections in 2011. The governing National Resistance Movement Organization
should begin to implement – not to promise – real changes to rebuilt human
capital from conception to adulthood.