In May 2017, two months after getting pregnant, Valentine Umuhoza, a resident of Nyaruguru District, started receiving Shisha Kibondo, a fortified grain flour offered for free to vulnerable households in the former first and second Ubudehe categories. Six months after giving birth to twin girls, the porridge flour, complemented by milk offered by her neighbours, enabled her to feed the babies until two years of age. Umuhoza, 32, was among the first beneficiaries of a World Bank-funded project launched in 2017 to tackle stunting and malnutrition in 13 Rwandan districts. Now, at five and attending a local nursery school in Ngera Sector, Umuhoza’s healthy twins give her the joy she wished for before her pregnancy. “Raising twins would have been very hard for me if it wasn’t the Shisha Kibondo porridge that I fed them,” she says. “I couldn’t have gotten the money to buy milk and flour because I boiled porridge three times a day.” The Shisha Kibondo flour, a blend of maize, soya, milk powder, sugar, vitamins and minerals, is fed to pregnant mothers and kids between six months and two years. “My son is 18 months old and I have fed him the porridge since he started eating,” Janvière Mukarwego, another resident of Ngera Sector, said. “He is healthy and Shisha Kibondo is the only porridge he likes. I would wish to see other mothers feed the porridge to their young kids.” At the start of the project, the sector had 15 malnourished children and 24 with stunting, says Genevieve Muhongayire, a nutritionist at Ngera Health Centre, who treated the children. “Currently, I remain with only one malnourished child and five who are stunted, and the numbers will continue to decline,” Muhongayire says. Initially, some 88 children received the porridge flour every month in Ngera Sector and the number has grown to 588 in 2022. Close to 400 pregnant and breastfeeding women receive the porridge. Muhongayire says pregnant women taking the porridge have more chances of giving birth to health children, than those who start it after birth. “We prevent stunting well before the kid is born. And the first remarkable result we have noted after issuing Shisha Kibondo is a sharp decline in the number of babies born underweight.” The porridge flour has enabled financially unstable households to prevent malnutrition and stunting, Muhongayire says. Encouraged by the nutritionist, Umuhoza and other beneficiaries of the project in Ngera Sector started a small cooperative to save money with which they bought chickens and pigs to provide their families with eggs and income. Even the relatively well-off households have been encouraged to improve their diet. “Shisha Kibondo has contributed so much to our anti-malnutrition efforts, and because it’s very rich in minerals like iron it has quickly helped to drive down stunting levels,” said Janvier Habumuremyi, who is in charge of early childhood development (ECD) centres in Nyaruguru District. In 2015, Nyaruguru had 41 per cent of stunted children. Thanks to Shisha Kibondo flour and other anti-malnutrition interventions, the district’s rate declined to 39 in 2020. And a recent survey by Rwanda Biomedical Centre found that the district’s stunting rate is at 34. The national stunting rate decreased from 38 per cent in 2015 to 33 per cent in 2020. The target is to decrease stunting to 19 per cent by 2024.