In commemoration of this year’s World Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus day, scheduled for tomorrow October 25, the Ministry of Health has introduced interventions to reduce on the spread of the condition.
During a press brief today at their offices, Sarah Ngolombi, a senior nutritionist with Ministry of Health revealed that one of the interventions will be to continue ensuring that there is full mandatory food fortification of different foods like maize flour, wheat flour and vegetable oil.
According to Ms Ngolombi, the Ministry is making sure that Ugandan industries are putting in the right amount of nutrients for the vulnerable population under strict monitoring.
“This is why we have regulations in place like the Food fortification Regulation, 2005, where it is mandatory that if a food processor is producing or importing into the country wheat flour, maize flour and vegetable oil for Consumption , they have to be fortified with vitamins including folic acids,” she said.
The intake of folic acid before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy is known to assist in prevention of Spina Bifida.
The senior nutritionist further explained that it is unfortunate that the majority of pregnant mothers here in Uganda by the time they go for their first antenatal, they are past the 28 days yet Spina bifida is known to occur within those days.
“So, you find it is very late for the folic acid that you are giving them to work. This is why we are ensuring that women of reproductive age consume wheat and maize flour with adequate folic acids, “ She added.
The Ministry of Health also introduced a program called Iron and Folic Acid affliation, which is their newest intervention.
Ms Ngolombi unveiled a policy on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition Guidelines where girls and women at their reproductive ages are supposed to be taking iron and folic acid tablets once a week.
“We have guidelines in place and we are supposed to be supporting about 30 districts in Uganda to have their children and adolescents in their reproductive ages being given Iron and folic acids per week,” she revealed.
“ This is so that by the time they get pregnant they have adequate micro- nutrients of folic acids and are aware of how they are supposed to protect themselves before they conceive.”
Spina Bifida cases mostly occur in unborn babies due to the lack of folic acids in the diet of their mothers. The babies are born with water in the head and spinal cord resulting in disability.
According to Ruth Nalunjja, the National country coordinator of persons with Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus Association, Uganda, Kasese district currently has the highest number of cases in the country.
She added that the day will be used to create awareness majorly on this condition and basically to advocate for evidence based interventions that aim at improving the quality of life of these children under the theme, “Elevate your voice.”