The number of obese Rwandans in urban cities has doubled over the past 10 years, according to Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Minister of Health. Dr Nsanzimana was speaking during the National Dialogue Council, Umushyikirano, on February 28, as part of a panel discussion on “Building strong families and communities”, aimed at looking at the status of addressing some of the challenges facing the family structure in the country. ALSO READ: Covid-19: Health experts worried obesity is on the rise Nsanzimana said that the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is worrisome. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer top the list of major diseases claiming the lives of many Rwandans, he noted. According to the latest Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey of 2019, at least six per cent of females aged 15 to 49 are thin and 26 per cent are overweight or obese. It indicates that the proportion of women who are overweight or obese has increased from 16 per cent in 2010 to 26 per cent in 2019-20. The percentage of women who are overweight or obese is higher in urban areas at 42 per cent compared to rural areas at 22 per cent. “The prevalence of short stature decreases with increasing education and wealth, while the prevalence of overweight or obesity rises with increasing education and wealth,” the survey states. ALSO READ: Society and the fight against obesity In a survey conducted by the health ministry, 40 per cent of people said they have never done any sports activity and don’t find it of any importance in their lives. The Minister told The New Times that Rwanda has reached a level of epidemic transition from infectious diseases declining while non-communicable diseases are on the rise. He said: It requires a shift in disease prevention and management strategies to address this phenomenon. At an individual level, people must change their lifestyle; avoid sedentary lifestyle as much as possible; eat healthy food and do regular screening of non-communicable diseases. Researchers say that those who sit for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity have a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking. Normally, a person should not sit for more than two hours without spending at least 20 minutes doing simple physical exercise. A person is considered overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 while an obese person has a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Stunting remains an issue of concern Nsanzimana said there is no going back once a child stunts for more than two years and is more prone to NCDs than those who developed properly. According to him, stunting is mainly caused by malnutrition, amoebiasis, as well as family conflicts that disrupt the development of a child’s brain at an early stage of life. “Over the past 10 years, stunting has reduced by only five per cent. It would require 33 years for us to eradicate this issue if we just continue what we are doing. We are still behind in terms of addressing this issue,” he said. Nsanzimana called on parents to observe measures needed to fight malnutrition through balanced diets.