As part of the continuous effort to eliminate the country’s nutritional problems, Health Minister Dr. Richard Sezibera yesterday called upon experts to advise on policy regarding use of food fortification as a way of increasing availability of micro nutrients.
Sezibera made the remarks at the opening ceremony of a technical conference dubbed, “Food Fortification and Nutrition Solutions for Community Health in Rwanda.”
According to the minister, the idea of adding micronutrients to foodstuffs as a way of meeting dietary needs is one of the effective measures of addressing Rwanda’s nutritional challenge – a major threat to public health.
“For the last two decades, protein energy malnutrition including micro nutrient deficiencies have remained significant public health problems in our country thus contributing to the high infant and maternal mortality rates that we are still grappling with.”
“We are struggling with micro nutrient deficiency at all levels. Our national nutrition policy of 2007 however recognizes food fortification as one of the approaches to provide essential micro nutrients to a large population.
He therefore urged the experts who had gathered from various countries and organizations across the world to advise the regulatory development that will soon enable fortification of selected food items that are accessible to many Rwandans.
The US agriculture attaché in the US Embassy based in Kenya, Souleymane Diaby, also commended Rwanda for using the right approach towards managing the problem.
“Despite the prevalence of this problem, this government has the right approach of partnering with the private sector to eliminate the nutritional problem in the country.
It is without doubt that unbelievable results will begin to show in two to five years’ time,” he added.
According to Sezibera, 45 percent of children below five years are stunted while 27 percent of women in the reproductive age suffer from iron deficiency anemia.
“As you know a child mortality rate that is higher than 70 per 1000 live births is considered by many as an indicator of Vitamin A deficiency.
“In Rwanda, mortality rates for under-fives is now at 103 per 1000 live births, this is why government is committed to fight this problem,” the minister added.
The two-day conference will focus on topics such as the overview of research capabilities of ISAR and its contribution to malnutrition and poverty eradication, soil suitable for soy bean production and high iron beans research, among others.