By The Inspirer staff
President Paul Kagame has told leaders that stunting is unacceptable among Rwandan children, urging them to make concerted efforts to eliminate such a plight which is against the well-being of Rwandans.
The President was speaking yesterday (Thursday, August 9, 2018) from Parliament building in Kigali as he officiated the dissolution of the parliament’s chamber of deputies — lower house, and the presentation of district performance in performance contracts known as “Imihigo” for 2017/2018 as well as signing new Imihigo for the 2018/2019 financial year.
Stunting impedes cognitive development, educational attainment, and lifetime earnings, and deprives the economy of quality human capital that is critical to attaining Rwanda’s aspiration to become a middle-income country and sustain its economic gains, according to experts.
“Fighting malnutrition [stunting] should be considered as an urgent task and be given special attention. Most of our children are malnourished not because we don’t have nutritious food to give them but due to the fact that there is no one on their side to follow-up,” Kagame observed.
Stunting is blamed for causing 21.9% of all child deaths, while malnutrition in general costs Rwf500 billion to Rwanda’s economy, equivalent to 11.5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
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Consequently, stunting has reduced Rwandan workforce by about 9.4%, according to estimates from Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Alliance – an umbrella of Civil Society Organisations engaged in the fight against malnutrition in Rwanda.
About 38% of all children in Rwanda are stunted as shows the recent Rwanda Demographic Health Survey (RDHS) of 2014/2015. And, in real numbers, stunted children in the entire Rwanda are estimated at 739,100, SUN Alliance revealed during a meeting between civil societies and journalists to discuss challenges that hamper food and nutrition security in Rwanda, on June 29, 2018.
Referring to responsibility of leaders in addressing problems of concern to the people they should serve, the President said that for districts that performed poorly, “this has a huge impact on the lives of our citizens. This is the reason why we still find stunted and malnourished children in our villages.”
“We should all aspire to become exemplary leaders. Leaders who are willing to do all that is necessary to take our country where it deserves to be. Leaders with a clear vision of what needs to be done,” he pointed out.
Highlighting the need for sustaining achievements made, and continuing to make progress, Kagame said “Our gains are not meant for one generation, they should be carried through for generations to come.”
Through Performance Contracts, he said “we assess how best we can leverage the available means to achieve our set targets. This system helps us understand why we fall short on certain goals even when we have the means.”
The government has been providing free nutritious fortified food to about 120,000 children under two years of age and pregnant as well as breastfeeding mothers up to six months from their child’s birth to improve their nutrition, as per information from the Ministry of Health in Rwanda.
The beneficiaries, are from economically vulnerable families in the first Ubudehe category (the poorest section of Rwandans) in all the 30 districts of the country, and second Ubudehe category in 11 districts which have the highest cases of stunting.
Rwanda targeted to reduce stunting among children under 5 years of age from 44 percent in 2010 to 18 per cent by 2018.
However, such a target seem to far to be achieved as stunting among children is estimated at 38 percent in 2018, according to information from the Ministry of Health.
In the Ministry’s Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP 4) running from July 2018 to June 2024, the stunting reduction target has been brought down as the government seeks to make it 29.9% by 2020 and 19% by 2024.
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