Week in Health

Last week the fight against malnutrition took another twist when a new nutritious sweet potato breed was rolled out in Muhanga, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Kamonyi and Ruhango districts.

Last week the fight against malnutrition took another twist when a new nutritious sweet potato breed was rolled out in Muhanga, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Kamonyi and Ruhango districts.

This breed was introduced by Scaling up Sweet Potato through the Agriculture and Nutrition (Sustain) project in partnership with Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab). The move aims at improving nutrition, incomes and food production in the country.

Simon Heck, the director of Sustain and programme head at International Potatoes Centre (IPC), said the potatoes are rich in vitamin A and its production yet so many products such as bread, cakes, biscuits, snacks, juice and high grade starch for pharmaceutical industries can be made from them.

Meanwhile the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) has initiated procedures to standardize the quality of banana wine.

Dr Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, the director general of RSB, said the banana wine industry is characterised by traditional processing methods that are currently deemed unhealthy.Traditionally, people use their feet to get juice from bananas, and that is the reason experts say that method should be phased out and replaced with affordable equipment to process wine.

Furthermore, the packaging of the wine, it was observed, still needs standardising. Experts noted that people usually collect empty branded bottles of beer and put in wine which they then sell on the market.

To increase the quantity and quality of the wine, processors were advised to label their products according to the type of wine or variety of bananas used.

New regulations and law enforcement organs will now intervene to stop those with no licenses or those with substandard quality wine.

Elsewhere in Nyagatare District in the Eastern Province, the Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The disease has spread from the corridor that stretches along Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza and Kirehe districts that neighbour Tanzania, to neighbouring farms, according to veterinary officials.

Symptoms of the disease were found in at least 100 cows in Karangazi Sector farms, but it was not yet clear how many animals could be affected.

Doctor Justin Zimurinda, the representative of Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (Rada) in Nyagatare District, said a quarantine has been put in place around the affected areas.

Outside Rwanda, a study in the journal Science suggests there could be even more deaths from other diseases in Ebola stricken West Africa because of the devastating impact on the countries’ vaccination programmes.

Experts said an increase in such infections was likely although there have been 24,350 cases of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. This is because many healthcare facilities closed and the fear of Ebola meant people did not show up at those that remained. This has had a knock-on effect on immunization campaigns for measles, polio, TB and other diseases.

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