By Elias Hakizimana
The governor of Western Province Alphonse Munyentwali, and other Officials have stressed that combating stunting and malnutrition among children, requires partnership between government’s institutions, development partners and individuals.
Munyentwali was addressing participants to the dissemination conference held in Kigali on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 from which various entities including Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) were discussing on how to combat stunting among children since their birth.
“Stunting is a burden which made us standup nowadays to teach community how to nourish and take care of their children,” he said.
Their discussions revolved around the “Embrace Project” by ADRA Rwanda which was designed to respond to challenges of insufficient quality and access to healthcare together with high rates of acute malnutrition for mothers and children under 5 (years of age).
“I hope with the partnership with Nyabihu District, Western Province and the whole country we are working on mostly by changing mindset and avail support wherever possible,” Munyentwali said.
Funded by the Government of Canada, the four-year project is being implemented in five countries including Philippines, Myanmar,Cambodia, Canada and Rwanda.
Particularly in Rwanda, it is in Western Province in Nyabihu District, specifically in four sectors worst affected by malnutrition, mainly Karago, Jenda, Bigogwe, and Kintobo.
Statistics show that Nyabihu District has the highest rate of preventable stunting in children less than five.
While the national average stunting rate among children under 5 is at 38 percent, which means that 4 in 10 children are stunted as per the Rwanda Demographic Health Survey released in 2014/2015; in Nyabihu it is at 59 percent.
This malnutrition state needs a quick nutrition intervention, according to ADRA Rwanda.
The in charge of nutrition programmes at RBC, Nicodem Habarurema, said that some challenges which should be addressed in order to improve nutrition are mindset of citizens to understand due to lack of nutritional information.
“We have an assignment together as this burden concerns all levels and institutions including ministries, development partners, and all people we work together in sensitizing community on how to combat stunting,” Habarurema said.
Interventions from ADRA’s improved nutrition project
As response to that pressing issue, since 2016, some 7,010 households with members segregated by age and gender have been identified as direct project beneficiaries, and among them are women between 20-44 years old, men between 20-44 years old, children between 0-4 years old and boys and girls.
The project aims to reach over 107,000 indirect beneficiaries. According to malnutrition screening conducted by the project in 2016, the number of target children stands at 10,711 (5,291 boys and 5,420 girls).
The project works with six health centers (Arusha, Mwiyanike, Kijote, Kareba, Kora, Kintobo), and Jenda health post to build capacity of staff for better service delivery to malnourished children.
According to Reuben Muvunyi, Embrace Project Manager in ADRA Rwanda, the project did a screening for malnutrition in 4 sectors in October 2016 among 11,000 children, among which 1,846 were found malnourished and got assisted with their nutrition rehabilitation that gathers together families with good nourished children with malnourished ones to share the best practices within twelve days.
Through cooking initiatives, Muvunyi said that the most vulnerable children suffering from malnutrition coupled with other diseases are transferred to hospital for further care. On their return home, the children continue having fortified food.
Among the affected malnourished children at the end of the screening, 60 percent of them recovered from malnutrition as Muvunyi noted.
According to Dr. Ngaite Nkomo Mgeni, ADRA Rwanda Country Director, a number of achievements so far has so far have been realized in terms of tackling malnutrition hurdle.
“We have over 8,000 community groups which we are working with in mother and child and new born to improve nutrition livelihood and we are trying to deal with stunting, and we have so far given out over 1,050 cows to vulnerable mothers to take care of children under five and at the end of the project we will give 3,000 cows to help children under five with milk as to combat stunting,” Mgeni said.
She said beyond the four sectors, the project will be scaled up in other sectors later.
“We are expecting households to have knowledge and skills on nutrition and entrepreneurship so that households can sustain themselves and it will help to get healthy society and healthy nation,” she added.
RBC’s Habarurema highlighted that food security and lack of food at markets are also among the challenges still hampering the progress.
He advises the community to cater for pregnant women and continuously nourish well the child until he/she is 2 years old.
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