Nutrition: Govt, FAO to roll out new guidelines

Nutritionists gathered in Kigali give guidelines on nutrition improvement. (Michel Nkurunziza)

THE GOVERNMENT, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, is set to develop new simple guidelines in Kinyarwanda to educate the public about nutrition. 

The Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) will be used to educate people to consume a more diverse and nutrient-and balanced diet as well as guide interventions aimed at addressing nutritional concerns in the country, officials said.

This was announced Tuesday at a consultative workshop on the guidelines in Kigali, which attracted representatives of several government ministries and agencies, academia, as well as multilateral agencies.

The workshop aimed at providing a forum for exchange of ideas on major challenges to healthy dietary practices, and social and behavioral change communication for nutrition.

Also needed is to build a consensus on the development process of the guidelines, including the roadmap and setup of Multi-sectoral Technical Task Team (MTTT) in improving nutrition status in Rwanda.

Speaking at the workshop, Theogene Rutagwenda, the director-general for animal resources  in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the guidelines,  initiated by Food and Agriculture Organisation, will bridge the disconnect between having food and the issue of malnutrition.

“The guidelines are timely in the contest of efforts to improve nutrition in Rwanda because you may have many people having enough food but you still have cases of malnutrition among them,” he said.

The official added: “Such disconnects need guidelines to educate and provide messages to the public on how to behave and make use of available food, and on food combinations that help fix such disconnects.”

He said the guidelines will not only help in educating and advising the public on food combinations but also guide different sectors’ policies and programmes such as agriculture, health, education and social protection services, water and sanitation for food hygiene, all of which are critical in improving nutrition status.

The guidelines are available for over 100 countries with only six African countries having fully embraced them.

In Rwanda, the guidelines will be translated into Kinyarwanda.

Nutritionists say that for governments to make the guidelines practical and easy to comprehend,   they should manifest into simple, meaningful and short messages with graphics about local foods, food groups, and lifestyle choices.

The guidelines 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. 

“We need simple messages and slogans in Kinyarwanda showing what to do and what not to do so as to improve the nutrition status. Under the Strategic Plans for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTA4), we want to make sure that nutrition programmes are strengthened, which is why we asked Food and Agriculture Organisation to develop these guidelines to help address the issue of malnutrition,” Rutagwenda said.

Alexis Mucumbitsi, the head of the nutrition and hygiene department at National Early Childhood Care and Development Programme (NECDP), said the move will help reduce stunting from 38 per cent to 19 per cent by 2024 in Rwanda. 

He said the same guidelines will help tackle other health issues such as overweight, obesity and anemia.

“We need strong coordination avoid ambiguous nutrition targets, and ensure better monitoring and evaluation as well as reporting about the programmes and adequate budgetary allocations. That will help us eliminate malnutrition, especially among children,” he added.

Jean Pierre De Margerie, the ad interim of World Food Programme in Rwanda, said: “We need to have different types of interventions. Communication and behavioral change is one of them, because among nutrition challenges include lack of proper awareness.”

He called for special attention to vulnerable categories such as pregnant women and children.

 editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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