Three years ago, Bertilde Musabyimana, a widow with five children who live in Masaka Sector, Kicukiro District was living a deplorable life as a result of poverty.
Her youngest child who was by then two years had started developing signs of malnutrition.
In 2017, her child was chosen together with 29 other children in the neighborhood who had signs of malnutrition, to go for a 12-day nutrition program that took away all these signs and gave parents lessons on how to prepare balanced diets for their children.
Gikuriro Program, she said, also gave us financial support and taught skills of certain activities such as tailoring, making juices, manufacturing shoes, clothes and many others, which helped us to generate income and be able to feed our families.
“I thank Gikuriro Program for showing up at the right time when my fellow parents and I were feeling the pinch of poverty and ignorance in regards to preparing balanced meals for our children. Our lives have changed for the better, and we are envisioning to achieve more because they gave us a foundation,” Musabyimana said.
Musabyimana is among 50,000 families that the program supported to prevent malnutrition, improve agricultural productivity, promote savings, improve social protection, and increase household food consumption.
Gikuriro further improved hygiene and sanitation practices for 570,000 households and increased access to clean water for over 345,000 Rwandans in eight districts.
The USAID-funded Gikuriro Program was a $24 million 5-year project (2015-2020), which was implemented by CRS (Catholic Relief Services) in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), and six Rwandan civil-society organizations (CSOs): CARITAS, AEE, FXB, DUHAMIC, YWCA, and FVA.
The goal of Gikuriro was to improve outcomes in nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) through capacity building and the implementation of the Government of Rwanda’s Community-Based Food and Nutrition Program and Community-Based Environmental Health Promotion Program (CBEHPP).
The program also aimed to improve the nutritional status of women of reproductive age and children under five years of age, focusing on the first 1,000-days, from conception to a child’s second birthday.
On Wednesday, October 28, stakeholders of the program held an event to celebrate milestones that were achieved in the five-year period.
The occasion was attended by officials from USAID, the National Early Child Development Program (NECDP), district representatives, development partners, civil society organization (CSO) representatives, and staff from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) among other participants.
A beneficial program
According to Alemayehu Gebremariam, Chief of Party of Gikuriro Program, the program achieved a lot and therefore a reason to celebrate.
“We are celebrating the achievement of Gikuriro Project in regards to the significant decrease of malnutrition rate in the districts we operated in. For instance, dietary diversity among women and children below 5 years has increased from 29 percent to 50 percent in those districts, which is a great success,” he said.
Gebremariam also noted that all the achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the support from partners.
He said: “We are grateful to the government of Rwanda, USAID, and other partners for the unwavering support to realize our ambitions, the achievement would not have been possible without joint efforts.”
Speaking at the event, Dr. Anita Asiimwe, the Coordinator of the National Early Child Development Program also reiterated that Gikuriro Program played a critical role in reducing malnutrition in Rwanda.
She said: “This program has significantly contributed to the efforts that the government of Rwanda is putting in place to ensure a quick reduction in malnutrition among children aged below 5years, and access to clean water among other areas that Gikuriro put emphasis.”
Official figures show that in 2005 stunting among children under 5 years was at 51 percent, which reduced to 44 percent in 2010 and 38 percent in 2015 in Rwanda.
The government seeks to reduce stunting from 38 percent to 19 percent by 2024.
According to Leslie Marbury, Mission Director of USAID in Rwanda, USAID is committed to partnering with Rwanda improving livelihoods of citizens.
“We are committed to partnering with the government of Rwanda and her people in ending malnutrition among other development projects. We have seen incredible results at improving dietary diversity, the health of mothers and children, and income-generating activities, which all helped beneficiaries of this project.”
Over the next five years we have a significant investment in nutrition and water and sanitation in as many districts as possible, she added.
Sustainability of what was achieved
According to Gebremariam, there is hope that the milestones achieved will not be wasted.
He said: “Our beneficiaries received our services and most importantly owned it, which we think will ensure sustainability. We also partnered with local leaders whom we are convinced will keep a keen eye to make sure the achievements are sustained.”
This was also reiterated by Asiimwe, who explained that Gikuriro’s mode of operation fitted so well with our country’s way of doing things because they partnered with us at both at the central and decentralized level, which is expected to ensure the sustainability of what was achieved in the five years.
Dr. Anita Asiimwe, the Coordinator of National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP).
Leslie Marbury USAID’s Mission Director speaks during the event of closing the Gikuriro Program at Kigali convention center on October 28, 2020.
Liberata Mukarurinda, a farmer who benefits from the Gikuriro Program, started encouraging other women to farm in mobile farmland.