Experts weigh in on malnutrition

Children take porridge in Mageragere Sector. Sam Ngendahimana.

Malnutrition in all its manifestations – stunting, underweight, wasting and anemia – is on the decline.

According to Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (RDHS) of 2016, cases of underweight stands at nine per cent, stunting is 38 per cent, there are 37 per cent. 

Malnutrition had been a challenge due to the use of unprofessional nutritionists.

Since 2015, UR-College of Medicine and Health Science produces professional nutritionists who can help the Government combat the issue, but the nutritionists are not hired to solve the problem of malnutrition.

Clémentine Umutoni, a nutritionist at Remera Rukoma Hospital said their work has been taken over by unprofessional nutritionists working in government and the private sector.

“You find social workers acting as nutritionists yet there are not, hence it leads to failure to combat malnutrition,” she said.

“There are nutritionists who are unemployed and are willing to use their knowledge with the support of the Government to help solve this issue”.

Esther Batetiwabo, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, said malnutrition was mostly caused by lack of knowledge.

“The problem we always face in local communities and health centres are poor interpretation of nutrition data and lack of knowledge in using anthropometric measurements and its interpretation and this leads to malnutrition,” she noted.

According to the prime minister’s instructions n0 001/03 of 21/11/2016 determining organizational structure, salaries and fringe  benefits for employees of Referral hospitals, provincial hospitals, district hospitals, Ndera Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital and health centres. Has positions for nutritionists but they are not hired.

What is nutritionists and their impact?

Nutrition has two categories which are Clinical Nutritionists, known as Medical Nutrition Therapists, who usually work in a hospital as part of a health care team. This person is responsible for using diet to treat disease and as part of the treatment plan.

Clinical dieticians assess needs, manage the nutrition care of patients in a variety of the clinical settings and conduct individual or group counselling sessions.

Community nutritionist refers to persons that work in community programmes that are funded by governmental organisations or private groups for behaviour change communication programmes, nutritional rehabilitation, sports, food legislation, marketing, pharmaceuticals and wellness settings.

Way forward

They request the government to verify whether those hired both in public institutions and in private sector as nutritionists are professionals in nutrition, saying this will help the Government’s fight against malnutrition.

They also request the Government and private sector to use professional nutritionists who understand malnutrition and how to handle it as technicians.