By Emmanuel Ntirenganya
Stunting issue has been persisting among Rwandan children, at least for the last 15 years since high government officials have started convening in National Leadership Retreat, to commit to addressing pressing issues affecting communities, said President Paul Kagame.
The President was chairing the 15th session of the Retreat at RDF Combat Training Center-Gabiro, in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province, from February 26 to March 1, 2018.
He wondered why such stunting is not eradicated for the well-being of Rwandans children, and tasked concerned ministries to deal with the issue effectively.
Speaking last week, during a press conference during the signing of a $55 million (about Rwf46 billion) Rwanda Stunting Prevention and Reduction Project (SPRP) between the Government of Rwanda and the World Bank, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), Claver Gatete said that the project will be implemented to reduce stunting rates among children under five years of age in 13 of Rwanda’s highest stunting districts.
The event came days after the President expressed concern over rampant issue of stunting in Rwandan children.
Those districts have a stunting rate of about 43%, while the average stunting countrywide stands at 38%, according to statistics from the 2014/2015 Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), a recent report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda.
The targeted districts include: Nyabihu, Ngororero, Karongi, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Rusizi, Nyamagabe, Huye, Nyaruguru, Ruhango, Gakenke, Kayonza and Bugesera. Where the project will aim at maximizing overlap with the existing Social Protection project to achieve synergy.
Households which had severe food insecurity had higher prevalence of stunting among children.
“We want to bring it (stunting), in those most affected districts, down to at least 33 percent,” said Gatete.
The government of Rwanda targets to reduce stunting situation further to 22 percent in the last seven years, a task which Minister Gatete considered huge and necessitating concerted efforts.
“Stunting is a serious issue because when it has occurred, other activities such as the education and development of a child are hindered,” he said.
The World Bank Country Manager, Yasser El-Gammal said that the project will focus on makingnchildren live healthy lives, pointingbout that bringing all partners together and ensuring seamless coordination with the work supported by all development partners will be key to its success.
“We want to see happy smiles of the young children who will benefit from his project. We look forward to the government’s leadership on this important agenda, and to working with it to add stunting reduction to Rwanda’s numerous achievements,” El-Gammal said.
Of the $55 million approved funding, a $25 million credit is provided by the International Development Association (IDA), and the rest is a grant jointly provided by The Power of Nutrition ($ 20 million) and the Global Financing Facility ( $ 10 Million).
Rwanda Stunting Prevention and Reduction Project (SPRP), according to MINECOFIN, will support community-based approaches, improve the delivery of high-impact nutrition and health interventions, incentivise frontline community health workers and health personnel, strengthen accountability mechanisms, and promote a learning-by-doing approach to draw lessons on what works and how it can be scaled up.
SPRP will focus on children under five (particularly children under two to reach them in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity, before stunting becomes largely irreversible), as well as pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls and poorest households.
“The project will support the Government to adopt and implement a bold strategy to improve the visibility of stunting in Rwanda, and to deliver harmonized behavior change messages across various platforms. What is transformational and ambitious in this project is the engagement in interventions across multiple sectors, leveraging and strengthening existing and new institutional structures to mobilise stakeholders; improve ownership and accountability; and ensure convergence of key interventions at the household and individual levels,” Minister Gatete observed.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) will serve as an entry point for addressing malnutrition, in line with the recently issued ECD policy, states MINECOFIN, adding that under this project, the support will be provided to strengthen home-based ECD sites.