By Davinah Nabirye, Communications Campaign Officer, World Vision Uganda
On 5th September 2013, King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukiidi IV, accepted the role of Child Health Good will Ambassador in the Tooro Kingdom and Uganda.
The King announced his ambassadorship after children asked him to become their diplomatic representative during the pre- Empango (coronation) celebrations during a community Health Fair themed; ‘Together we can end preventable child deaths’ at Mucwa grounds in Fort Portal town. Fort Portal is located approximately 320 kilometres by road, west of Kampala, Uganda's capital.
The health fair was part of the festivities ahead of King Oyo’s 18th coronation anniversary on Saturday 8th 2013 in the Kingdom. King Oyo, who is an authoritative voice in his Kingdom and amongst Uganda’s youth will avail the Child Health Now Campaign various platforms to promote children’s health and rights.
Orphaned at the tender age of three, King Oyo was exposed to the possibility of him dying at a tender age had he not received proper care as a child under his mother’s guardianship. Now at 21 years of age, King Oyo is a testimony that when given support and nurturing environment, children can thrive beyond five years.
According to the Uganda Demographic Household Survey, 2011, one in every 19 Ugandan children dies before the first birthday and one in every 11 children dies before the fifth birthday.
Chronic malnutrition in Toro kingdom is higher than the national average of 33% (UDHS 2012). Forty three per cent of the Kingdom’s children suffer malnutrition. Of this, wasting stands at three per cent while 15 percent of all the children are underweight. However, the region has potential to produce optimal food to feed its population. The high rates of stunting in this region warrantee multi-stakeholder engagement and cultural leaders can be rallied upon as key nutrition champions in contributing to the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
Twelve year-old Elly Nyaika, a pupil of Ngombe Primary School in Kaborole district and a child representative at the function expressed concern about children below the age of five dying from preventable diseases (like pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition and malaria) and asked the King to be an ambassador for Uganda’s children both within and outside Uganda.
“I ask our King to sensitize our parents to breastfeed, to take children for full immunization and feed their children on a balanced diet,” Elly said.
“As children of Tooro, we request you to be our Ambassador wherever you go. Lobby for money and build a children’s hospital in our Kingdom so that we stop queuing up for treatment with adults,” Elly told the King.
Presenting a statement on behalf of the civil society organisations in Tooro region, Shariff Muhammad from Kabarole Research Centre called upon the King to, “support improved child health and nutrition initiatives in Uganda, use his influence to lobby for more resources both financial and human to address the challenges that hinder improvement of child health. He called upon the King and stakeholders to continuously sensitize mothers, fathers, families and communities on the importance of nutrition and prevention of disease.”
The function which was organised by World Vision Uganda and the Uganda Civil Society Coalition on Scaling Up Nutrition (UCCOSUN) was World Vision Uganda’s contribution towards the 4-10th September popular mobilization aimed at calling on leaders to “close the gap” on poverty so all children can Survive 5.