Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of underweight and wasting, feeding patterns, water use and sanitation patterns in children aged 6-23 months in returnee villages in northern Uganda, and then to identify feasible strategies to promote nutrition. Perceived understanding of the presentation and causes of undernutrition was also assessed. Design: This was a descriptive cross-sectional survey, carried out in May and June 2010. Setting and subjects: The study was conducted in the districts of Agago and Pader in northern Uganda in 219 children aged 6-23 months. Outcome measures: Weight and mid-upper-arm circumference were determined for underweight and wasting, respectively. Focus group discussions were held with adults to determine perceived understanding, presentation and causes of undernutrition. Results: Over 11% of the children were wasted. Those aged 6-11 months were the most wasted. Eighteen per cent of them were underweight. Those aged 12-17 months had the highest prevalence of underweight. Eighty-three per cent of the children were still breastfeeding and 47% were exclusively breastfed. The largest proportion (38.8%) of children ate twice daily and 4.1% had not eaten any food on the day prior to the visit. The water usage rate was 13.3 litres/person/day. The majority (57.5%) of households did not have their own pit latrines and disposed of faeces in the bush (87%). Communities had good knowledge of causes of undernutrition, its consequences and the required practices to prevent and control it. Conclusion: This assessment has informed the need for holistic approaches to address the challenge of undernutrition in children aged 6-23 months in returnee villages in northern Uganda. Interventions that target improvement in complementary feeding, particularly between the ages of 6-11 months, while also addressing pertinent issues of water and sanitation, hold the most potential to address the challenge.