The ordeal of malnourished children

The mothers expressed issues of malnutrition among children and causes behind it. / Courtesy photo

Jacqueline Mushimiyimana, a mother of twins in Musenyi sector of Bugesera District, says that lack of enough food and family conflicts led to the stunting of her twins.

“I do not have a single piece of land. I rent a house and only survive on casual labour which is not easy to get every day. It is even harder to find work during this Covid-19 pandemic. That is how my children got stunted,” she says.


The mother of four children says her husband abandoned her and her twins are only one year and three months old.



Stunting prevents children from developing to their full potential mentally and physically, and it is largely irreversible. Stunting is not the only form of malnutrition that affects children. Net photo

“My husband abandoned me because we were always in conflict and I am not aware of his whereabouts,” she says.

She says a cow could provide milk and additional financial assistance to be able to support her family.

Adeline Nyiratetera also has twins. She says she got sick and had to stop breastfeeding them. 

“I could not breastfeed them and I was not even able to do casual labour to buy milk for them. I have no land to cultivate, however, a government social protection programme recently gave me a cow because my family was malnourished,” she says. 

The women are of part of 181 malnourished families in Bugesera District and 100 vulnerable families in Gatsibo District who got support under ‘Hinga Weze’ a support project in partnership with the National Early Childhood Development Program, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) and district leadership.

The families with malnourished children under the age of five were reported to be in dire need due to the shortage of food worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The children, being monitored at health centres to help them fight malnutrition, received food including high iron beans, sugar, SOSOMA flour, cooking oil, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, small fish, rice and maize flour.

Innocent Kazungu, the executive secretary of Musenyi sector in Bugesera District, says that reported malnourished children are accommodated at health centres for two weeks and are fed, while their mothers are sensitised on nutrition.

In Bugesera District, 370 children under the age of five were reported to be malnourished, and 181 among these were found in eight sectors — Kamabuye, Rilima, Rweru, Mayange, Musenyi, Shyara, Nyarugenge, and Gashora.

Of these children, 156 have mild malnutrition, while 25 have severe malnutrition and nine have complications related to malnutrition, according to the District Plan to Eliminate Malnutrition (DPEM) assessment report.

Kazungu explains that after the families leave the health centres, they follow up to ensure that they do not fall back into the pit of malnutritionz

Under ‘Hinga Weze’, the families will also get vegetable seeds and orange-fleshed sweet potato vines to increase food security and diversity for households, and improve agricultural productivity and the nutritional status of women and children.

According to Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the district of Bugesera recorded a high rate of malnutrition where stunting among children under the age of five was at 35%.

It says that 83 per cent aged two and below are not reaching the minimum acceptable diet.

Bugesera is one of 13 districts across the country where special measures have been taken to reduce stunted growth among children by 50 per cent by 2024.

Figures show that in 2005 stunting among children was at 51 per cent, which reduced to 44 per cent in 2010 and 38 per cent in 2015 in Rwanda.

Government seeks to reduce stunting from 38 per cent to 19 per cent by 2024 which means 50 per cent reduction.

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