Stunting among children below five years drops

Children take porridge at Mageragere Early Childhood Development Centre. File.

Stunting among children below five years of age fell slightly from 38 per cent in 2015 to 35 per cent in 2018, according to a report by National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP).

The statistics, contained in the report which was released on Friday last week, show that efforts to reduce malnutrition and stunted growth are beginning to pay off.

Rwanda aims to reduce stunted growth among children under 5 years to 19 per cent by 2024.

However, the pace at which stunted growth is dropping has raised concern among experts and civil society organisations.

The report shows that there is annual drop of just 1.5 per cent. If the rate is sustained the 2024 target won’t be achieved, according to Alexis Mucumbitsi, the Head of Nutrition and Hygiene Department at NECDP.

In 2012, according to the report, stunting among children below the age of five years stood at 42 per cent. It reduced to 38 per cent in 2015 before further dropping to 35 per cent in 2018.

The report highlights that some children are fed on energy giving foods and miss on other food diet while others eat less than four times a day.

“Stunting is both physical and psychological. Kids who get stunted are affected throughout their lives and can hardly learn well,” Mucumbitsi said.

Mucumbitsi said that children also lack the minimum acceptable diet of under five children as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Apart from breast milk, the “minimum acceptable diet” indicator measures both the minimum feeding frequency and minimum dietary diversity, as appropriate for various age groups.

Josephine Uwamariya, the country Director for ActionAid Rwanda, said improving Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs), is one of the solutions to stunting.

“There is lack of coordination and focus. We may be having financial challenges but if we all pull in the same direction, we can achieve a lot,” she said.

Human capital affected

The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Solina Nyirahabinama, challenged stakeholders to work together to address stunted growth, saying that it was undermining efforts to make Rwanda a middle income country.

“Human capital has a problem if our children are stunted,” she said.