The Eastern Province has started a protracted campaign to fight malnutrition in communities, a process expected to improve nutrition habits in the region.
Authorities say to maximise the impact, interventions would be taken to all villages, cells and sectors across eastern districts.
The campaign is in response to the fourth Rwanda Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (ECV4) report, released last month by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), showing that 44 per cent of Rwandan children suffer from chronic malnutrition, a situation that negatively impacts their individual growth.
Eastern Province was reported to have 43.9 per cent of children with stunted growth (chronic malnutrition) with 3.2 per cent of children suffering from what is known as wasting (acute malnutrition).
The measures were outlined after Yusuf Murangwa, the director general of NISR discussed findings of the report with leaders of the Eastern Province on Wednesday.
The one-day workshop was attended by, among others, officials from NISR, Ministry of Local Government, as well as mayors, community health workers, NGOs representatives and provincial hospital directors.
The governor of the province, Odette Uwamariya, said there was a need to step up mass sensitisation for the malnutrition fight to succeed.
“The population needs to be sensitised further…ignorance on what good feeding entails remains an issue. The issue of family size should not be underrated as well. Some rural families have big numbers of children,” she said.
Dr Fulgence Nkikabahizi, the director of Rwinkwavu Hospital which handles most cases of acute malnutrition in the province, said the campaign needed a holistic approach.
He called for community-based nutrition interventions to directly address nutrition issues for vulnerable pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under five years.
Nkikabahizi noted that emphasis would be put on children under two years of age to prevent stunting.
“The community-based nutrition interventions will include reaching out to the children through monthly growth monitoring and promotion, treating moderate malnutrition, referring children with cases of acute malnutrition to health facilities and providing nutrition education and counselling to mothers,” he said.
Nkikabahizi warned that malnutrition would have adverse effects on the lives of children if not checked.
“Stunting and wasting growth can be dangerous, particularly when it’s acute and goes chronic…food is the only medicine. When a child is poorly fed in the first 1,000 days of life, the child’s mind and intelligence are affected.
Health development, physical and other traits are retarded… it actually becomes a disease,” he said.
Rwamagana and Bugesera were named as the most-affected districts in the province.
African Evangelistic Enterprise Rwanda (AEE), one of the stakeholders in the campaign, have initiated a neighbourhood-based nutrition programme for children at risk for protein energy malnutrition.
According to AEE-Rwamagana coordinator, Wilson Kabagambe, the programme would use ‘positive deviance’ approach to identify behaviours practiced by mothers of well-nourished children from poor families and transfer them to communities with malnourished children.
“Home will be the location for nutrition education and rehabilitation sessions…specific field examples and useful tools will be provided. We are starting with 76,957 children under five and 32,000 pregnant mothers. AEE will build the capacity of target women to improve on their nutrition status, through increased knowledge and income as well as improved agricultural activities.