Then Lomaratoit. The road to building a brighter future in Uganda

It’s a long road to Karamoja. After a while, it’s not really a road at all. There’s Kampala, Jinja, Mbale. Then there’s Soroti – then Iriri. There are hours of driving. Driving along roads constructed by Chinese companies and driving on roads constructed by nature. There are staggeringly beautiful views and mile upon mile of flat, green, landscape stretching to the horizon. There is a giant rock that, at a certain angle, looks like a grumbling, hunched-over, gorilla. There are families selling bags of charcoal by the roadside. There are huts. Then there’s a road squeezed on both sides by tall bushes, with grass tickling the underside of your truck. Then, after all of that, there’s Karamoja. Then there, finally, is Lomaratoit Primary School.

Lomaratoit Primary School. Karamoja, Eastern Uganda. 

At first glance, the school isn’t all that much to look at. Two blocks of buildings sitting beside each other at a right angle. Around the spacious environment of the school is scattered a toilet block, a small room for cooking, a few trees. Here and there are signs advocating sexual abstinence and highlighting the realities of HIV/AIDS. Printed on a sign, on the wall, is a list of the school’s supporters. The United Nations Population Fund, Global Disease Eradication Fund, Korea International Cooperation Agency are among the listed organisations. The school enrolment stands somewhere in the region of 400 students. Though, on the sun-drenched Friday, in September, when Feed A Million Mouths International (FAMMI) pay a visit, there seems to be fewer than 50.

FAMMI and Dwelling Places arrive at Lomaratoit Primary School with 1,300kg of NRG XTRA.

In tow with FAMMI are representatives from Dwelling Places, a non-government organisation dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of at-risk people and communities. Dwelling Places serves as the key supporter of the school. Also, in tow, is a delivery of 1,300 kgs of FAMMI’s NRG XTRA porridge, a highly nutritious Corn Soy Blend with added vitamins and minerals. The porridge will be used to feed students and staff at the school for the rest of their current school term. Awaiting the delivery of the NRG XTRA is the school’s Headmaster, Amos Okurut, dressed in a bright orange shirt.

This is FAMMI’s third food delivery to Lomaratoit Primary School. The Headmaster’s office is dark and adorned with posters displaying school targets and policies, Speaking to FAMMI, Mr Okurut paints a bleak picture of nutrition at the school beforewwintervention. “In terms of breakfast, there was nothing to eat. The school could give them lunch because of a government programme, but that was it, during breakfast there was nothing for them to eat,” he says. Breakfast has long been heralded as the most important meal of the day and no more so for school-going children.

Unloading the delivery of NRG XTRA at Lomaratoit Primary School.

“It’s brought about such a difference,” Mr Okurut says of the arrival of NRG XTRA porridge at the school. “It has actually changed the daily attendance. The daily attendance has increased. And, the enrolment has increased, too. The children are keener now to come to school.” While attendance may be low on the day of FAMMI’s visit, Mr Okurut is confident the numbers will rise dramatically by Monday. “The children have seen that the food has been delivered now. Word about that will spread very quickly! By next Monday the majority will be here.”

NRG XTRA, a precooked Corn Soy Blend (CSB) with a vitamin mineral premix, provides 12 gr of protein and 1,752 kj of energy per 100 gr serving. Quick and easy to make, it is suitable for both children and adults. It is currently available in two flavours, vanilla and cinnamon.

“It’s brought about such a difference,” Mr Okurut says of the arrival of NRG XTRA porridge at the school. “It has actually changed the daily attendance. The daily attendance has increased. And, the enrolment has increased, too. The children are keener now to come to school.” While attendance may be low on the day of FAMMI’s visit, Mr Okurut is confident the numbers will rise dramatically by Monday. “The children have seen that the food has been delivered now. Word about that will spread very quickly! By next Monday the majority will be here.”

NRG XTRA, a precooked Corn Soy Blend (CSB) with a vitamin mineral premix, provides 12 gr of protein and 1,752 kj of energy per 100 gr serving. Quick and easy to make, it is suitable for both children and adults. It is currently available in two flavours, vanilla and cinnamon.

School children watch on as FAMMI and Dwelling Places deliver NRG XTRA to the school.

Mr Okurut is fulsome in his praise of NRG XTRA. “[The students] enjoy it so much. It’s so nutritious. When I look at and compare their health status, previous and now… before they were eating nothing and now, they’ve completely changed – they’re very healthy. Even the teachers too. Some of the teachers I recruit on a contract basis, they come when they are slim, but when somebody spends a term here you find somebody changing, meaning the food is so good, it’s so nutritious. When you take it, you don’t feel hungry… it can sustain you for the whole day.”

While FAMMI’s regular provision of breakfast at the school, through its partnership with Dwelling Places, has solved one issue for the staff and students in Lomaratoit, Mr Okurut has many other problems remaining on his plate.

All hands on deck during the delivery of NRG XTRA.

FAMMI’s regular provision of breakfast to the school, through its partnership with Dwelling Places, has solved one major issue at the for the establishment. However, there are many more outstanding. Asked if he is pleased with how the school is functioning, Mr Okurut is brusque in reply. “No, no, no, no. I’m not pleased because of the number of challenges we have here,” he says.

“One is water problems. We don’t have water sources here at the school. It’s a very, very, great challenge for us here. Also, for us here, when our children fall sick, there’s no emergency box to handle these sicknesses. When you look at the distance from here to the health centre, it’s almost 20 kilometres.”

Headmaster Amos Okurut pictured with staff members from FAMMI and Dwelling Places.

“Then also when you look at the staff, we’re only three government teachers. The other four are on contract basis, they are non-established. So, we’re understaffed. Then we have the structures of the school. For the school to be called a conductive school it should have structures. Now, we only have two permanent blocks, the rest are temporary. So, I’m not pleased with the standard of the school in the sense. But at least I see there is some change. It is a gradual change,” he explains.

FAMMI’s Robert Tindyebwa is on hand to oversee the delivery and storage of the 1,300 kg of NRG XTRA. He will wind up the discussions for the day. It is time to turn around and face into the long journey back to Kampala.

About the Author

Eoin Scanlon is a Communications & Marketing Assistant with FAMMI. From Ireland, he is a qualified journalist with experience in communications, politics and journalism. He has lived and worked in Uganda, as a volunteer as well as a staff member with FAMMI.

About FAMMI

Feed A Million Mouths International (FAMMI) aims to feed one million vulnerable people in Uganda within 3 years. FAMMI is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, allowing it to operate as a Social Enterprise. FAMMI blends, packages and commercialises fortified foods for individuals and At Risk Communities in Uganda.

FAMMI is motivated by the fact that the quality of nutrition, in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, largely determines what quality of future that child will have. Inadequate nutrition during this crucial period, both for the pregnant mother and her baby, can have a permanent effect on the child’s cognitive and physical development.

About Dwelling Places

Dwelling Places (DP) began in 2002 and is a Christian NGO dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of street children, abandoned babies and high-risk slum families in Uganda. DP follows a holistic program to restore and rebuild the children and families in its care. The ‘Restore’ programme is dedicated to rescuing vulnerable children and rehabilitating them through healthcare, education and reconciliation with their families. The ‘Rebuild’ programme is dedicated to helping families welcome their children back into the home and to enable alumni to develop and enjoy a sustainable way of life after leaving Dwelling Places.

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