By Elias HAKIZIMANA.
Activists have warned that forgetting the food system amid the COVID-19 health crisis will unwittingly have an even bigger impact on the burden of disease.
They say these as health experts also say that consuming nutritious food builds body’s immune system and thus cope with high vulnerability to succumbing to different diseases including COVID-19.
“Social protection programmes should be more linked to promoting the consumption and production of nutritious food, not just preventing food insecurity. We expect the prevention of food loss, especially fresh food, during storage and transport to gain a greater profile. We expect to see food safety move strongly up the policy priority in terms of food handling, storage and distribution.” Said VenusteMuhamyankaka, Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance-RWANDA Program Director
“If we forget the food system right now, the COVID-19 health crisis will unwittingly use the food system as a catapult to have an even bigger impact on the burden of disease. If we think and act to change the food system right now we can reposition it to be more effective at delivering affordable nutritious food during the crisis, and perhaps even after the crisis.” He added.
Muhamyankaka reiterated that there are worries that a big gap in nutritious foods can exist and remain a challenge to the community if no quick interventions are made.
He said that the situation was worse during Covid-19 as per assessment done by SUN alliance Rwanda, noting that food transportation on the markets was not adequate as it should be.
“We observed that transportation of food was not adequately done, due to lack of markets, some crops could be rotten in farms and when accessible on the markets, prices were on high.”
He advocates for affordability of nutritious foods as their prices were on high even before the covid-19 pandemic.
He also said that all concerned entities should review the budgets allocated to farming and nutrition services.
“People need to be sensitized to value nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables. Today we have 83 percent in food safety but many households are suffering from malnutrition. There is need to increase off-farm services so that people manage to buy nutritious foods. Rwandans need to be explained the importance of planting vegetables […] many households still sell eggs to buy potatoes and it is a problem that hampers the promotion of eating nutritious foods,” Muhamyankaka said.
Rwandans cultivated 500,000 hectares of land including those for vegetables and fruits during the agricultural season B according to Dr Rucagu, Deputy Director General at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).
Rucagu said that they will continue mobilizing Rwandans to cultivate nutritious crops and they will give seeds to farmers by next week.
Poverty remains an issue
Though the call for interventions in changing the food system by nutrition activists, some citizens say that it has become worse during this period of Covid-19 to access to healthy diet because poverty is the most alarming issue.
Bertilde Nyiraneza, a mother of four children from Gahanga sector, Kicukiro District told the Inspirer that her living conditions can’t allow her to easily afford nutritious food for children.
“I only strive to get them some food to eat, if they are satisfied with the quantity that is enough. It is not easy to afford enough find vegetables, fruits and more. I used to look for part time jobs like washing clothes of people and get paid but nowadays they fear Coronavirus and can’t trust me anymore. When it comes up with any job opportunity of such a kind, I arrange myself to find some cheap food regardless of which nutrients they may have, ”Nyiraneza said.
Fruits prices were on high during fresh Covid-19 period
Reiterating on some gaps that caused poor nutrition during Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Alexis Mucumbitsi, Head of Nutrition and WASH at National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP) said that losing jobs for some parents was a huge problem.
“Loss of jobs to some parents was an issue towards accessing nutritious foods duringCcoronavirus, we are conducting research on nutrition status and how Covid-19 affect families in terms of nutritious food access but as of now we do not count a lot of damages,” Mucumbitsi noted.
According to the 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition by FAO, nearly 821 million people globally are hungry, of whom 31 per cent are from specifically sub-Saharan Africa.
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