Feeding practices for children aged 0-24 months in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, Kamwenge District, Uganda
Kansiime, Ezrah Jets
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The failure to adopt appropriate feeding practices by care givers in early childhood is a major risk factor for ill-health throughout the course of life. The life-long impact may include poor school performance, reduced productivity, impaired intellectual and social development or chronic diseases (WHO 2011). Proper nutrition is one of the important health determinants among the populations of any country, Uganda inclusive. However, malnutrition remains a big threat to almost all regions in Uganda particularly in refugee settlements. The main objective of the study was to establish infant and young child feeding practices and factors associated with them in Rwamwanja refugee settlement. During the study, the researcher focused on mothers of children aged 0-24 months. Local government leaders, technical staff, humanitarian agencies and breastfeeding mothers were purposively selected to participate as key informants and in FDGs for qualitative data collection. The study comprised a sample size of 289 breastfeeding mothers from different villages in the refugee settlement and the findings of the study were presented as background characteristics univariate, bivariate and descriptive analysis. From the study, about 81% of the mothers in the refugee settlement practiced appropriate feeding practices to their babies, while about 19% of the mothers did not practice appropriate feeding practices. From the survey mothers who reported to have practiced exclusive breasting which is one of the indicators of proper feeding behavior was at 68.4%, this was slightly higher than the reported figure from WHO 2019 of about 44% of infants 0–6 months old are exclusively breastfed. Breastfeeding is very important in children because it improves IQ of children school attendance, and is associated with higher income in adult life. WHO and UNICEF recommend, early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth but still from the study about 10% were breastfed an hour after birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life was only at 68%; and introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond which from the survey was done to some infants before 6 months 23.3%, though the figure is lower for the many infants and children who do not receive optimal feeding. Most mothers in the study responded to question of how long after birth did they put the child on the breast, that they breastfed immediately after birth (68.4%), about 13.7% breastfed after 30 minutes and also about 9% of the respondents responded that they breastfed after an hour from the time of birth. Most of the mother in the settlement had female children (53.3%) and the rest had male children (46.7%). In line with the findings, there is need to acknowledge the existence of language barrier at the health facility which is the primary unit of disbursing information related to feeding practices to mothers. It was also observed that, the fertility rate in the settlement is very high. At least every household has a child less than two years with a brief that the more children you have the more support you get from the helping agencies. Therefore, there is need by the NGOs and the government to recruit health workers who can at-least communicate in Lingala, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda to these mothers the languages they understand because most of them reported not understanding what they are taught at the health facilities during counseling, and therefore, calling upon the stakeholders to do extensive sensitization on the dangers of having many children in the refugee settlement.