By Elias Hakizimana.
In a bid to further measures of addressing food insecurity which is an issue not only in Rwanda but also on the continent, the government of Rwanda adopted to develop new guidelines called ‘Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG)’ in local language.
The new document will help the public understand how to prepare a well-balanced meal, diverse with nutrient dense diet and will guide all concerned authorities dealing with food and nutrition programmes to tackle food and nutrition threats including food insecurity in the country.
Various authorities including social cluster ministries, respective government agencies, academia, bilateral and multilateral agencies, UN Network, Civil Society and NGOs as well as the private Sector were in Kigali on March 27, 2018 in a consultative workshop on these guidelines.
The workshop aimed at pproviding a forum for exchange of ideas on major challenges constraining healthy dietary practices, social and behavior change communication for nutrition.
Participants to the workshop agreed on developing a common understanding of the guidelines, build a consensus on their Development process including the roadmap and the Multi-Sectoral Technical Task Team (MTTT) in improving nutrition status in Rwanda.
Speaking at the workshop, Dr.Théogène Rutagwenda, Director-general for Animal Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) said the guidelines initiated by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will bridge the gap between food availability and malnutrition.
“The guidelines are timely for improving nutrition in Rwanda because you may have many people having enough food but still observe malnutrition among them. It means such disconnect need guidelines to educate , provide messages to the public on how to behave and make use of available food , make possible food combinations to solve the disconnect,” Rutagwenda said.
“The guidelines will not only educate and advise the public on food combinations but also will guide different sectors’ policies and programmes such as Agriculture, Health, Education and Social protection, Water and Sanitation for food hygiene which all have role in improving nutrition status,” Rutagwenda added.
The guidelines that are available for over 100 countries have only succeeded in only six African countries that completed the process to embrace them in their respective states.
It was revealed by nutritionists that for governments to make the guidelines practical and easy for the public, a need for a simple, meaningful and short messages with graphics about local foods, food groups, and lifestyle choices is necessary to reach the goal.
The guidelines will also cover topics such as the amount and types of food groups to consume on a daily basis, meal planning techniques, nutrient and disease interactions, and strategies to reduce or prevent chronic disease, and dietary advice for particular life stages.
Rutagwenda said “We need simple messages and slogans that will be also in Kinyarwanda showing what to do and what not to do so that their nutrition status improves. Under the Strategic Plans for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTA4) we want to make sure nutrition programs are strengthened and we asked FAO to develop such guidelines to address malnutrition issue,”
Alexis Mucumbitsi, the Head of the Nutrition and Hygiene Department in National Early Childhood Care and Development Program (NECDP) said the move will help Rwanda to reduce stunting from 38 per cent to 19 per cent by 2024.
Mucumbitsi said that the guidelines will give solution to other forms of malnutrition such as overweight, obesity and anemia.
“We need strong coordination, avoid ambiguous nutrition targets, better monitoring and evaluation as well as reporting about the programs and ensure enough budget allocate as well. The issue of malnutrition will then be eliminated especially among the children,” he added.
Jean Pierre De Margerie, the country Director for World Food Programme (WFP) in Rwanda said the guidelines development is critically importantly to address the challenges of malnutrition in Rwanda, a complex issue that needs contribution from many sectors.
De Magerie noted that different types of interventions will be put in place after the development of the guidelines to address food insecurity.
“We need to have different types of interventions. Communication and behavior change is one of the key interventions that we need to do because among nutrition challenges include lack of proper awareness, education of Rwandan families and how to access to food and to measure the quantity they need to consume,” He said.
De Margerie said the guidelines will serve as a proper material for special categories of people such as children and pregnant women to meet nutrition requirements.