As Rwanda moves towards eliminating nutritional problems as a way of attaining Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), various experts in the field have identified community-based interventions as the best solution for these issues.
The officials stressed this recommendation at the closure of a three-day Nutrition Summit that started Tuesday this week.
“I work in an area where nutritional problems are very evident in the community. Malnutrition of a child, for example, usually starts with the parent. Most pregnant mothers do not acquire the necessary nutrients that are needed for one to deliver a healthy baby,” Alexiana Nyirandushabandi, a Nutritionist in Kibogora Hospital in Nyamasheke Distric said.
“With this, the child may suffer the same problems and soon be stunted. Such children will pass on the same problems to the next generation. To break this cycle, all pregnant women must be sensitized through community programmes.”
The Director of Ruhengeri Hospital, Dr. John Kalach, also concurred, adding that there is food security though most people do not know the right foods to eat in order to avoid nutritional problems.
“People actually grow nutritional foods like vegetables, fruits or even rear chicken and cattle, which provide eggs and milk. Unfortunately they take all the produce to the market and forget to keep anything for themselves.
“Countrywide, we have over 34,000 community-based health workers, and after this meeting, we have agreed to build their capacities in ways that will help them identify and advise people in communities about nutritional problems,” Kalach told The New Times.
During the course of the summit, various officials, including the Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Sezibera, noted that nutrition is a cross-cutting issue which once improved will lower child and maternal mortality rates and assure education for all, which are all components of MDGs.
The president of the Nurses and Midwives’ Association, Andrew Gitembagara, said that her association will embark on a nutritional programme as part of their strategic plan.
“Since last year, we have been mainly focusing on educating the public on family planning as a major way of fighting problems facing the population, including malnutrition.”
“After this summit that has clearly exposed the nutrition problem in the country, we have vowed to play a bigger role in managing the problem so we are set to sensitize the public at community level,” Gitembagara noted.
Another expert at the Kigali Central University Hospital (CHUK), Joseph Uwiragiye, said that health officials like doctors may not really help much in curbing this problem since all they do is treat.
He therefore emphasized that government should build the capacities of community-based health workers to assist in behavioural change so that the problem is managed at the grass root levels.
Ida Odinga, the wife of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, attended the summit.