Children in households with acceptable food consumption are 23 per cent less likely to be stunted than those in households with inadequate food security, a new report on nutrition, market and gender indicates.
The survey, released yesterday, was conducted on more than 10,000 households, out of which 2,788 had a stunted child.
It indicates that the overall prevalence of stunting in children within the screened populations stands at 32 per cent.
The survey was conducted in nine districts; Rubavu, Ngororero, Gakenke, Musanze, Kirehe, Nyagatare, Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe and Gasabo.
The findings were presented at a meeting in Kigali.
Dr Ruben G. Echeverria, the director-general of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), said there was a need for more research in agriculture to ensure that stunting is eradicated.
He said there is need to keep investing in agricultural research to make sure that we have food security.
“So, we need more crop and livestock research to make sure that production keeps going on and up. In addition to production we need to make sure that markets are working, the value chains are working, seeds and fertilisers are working to ensure that we get quality and enough food to ensure quality dietary that is crucial in eradicating stunting,” said Echeverria.
The report also indicates that the risk of stunting is higher for boys with a prevalence of about 36 per cent vis a vis 29 per cent for girls under five.
‘Increases with age’
Like stunting, the report indicates that underweight and wasting among children under five months increase with the age of the child with the overall prevalence standing at 8.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.
Dr Louis Butare, the director-general of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said some initiatives have been taken through the crop intensification programme.
He said families with enough agricultural production have less risk to have stunted children.
“Through the crop intensification, it is remarkable that household production is increasing. However, increasing production is not enough to address the problem of malnutrition as we have to make sure that what we produce has enough nutrients needed for health. That why we have introduced a variety of beans that are rich in iron to ensure that people get sufficient nutrients,” Butare said.
Dr Olushayo Olu, the World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, said addressing the issue of stunting requires multi-sectoral participation.
“Fighting malnutrition and stunting is not about food only, we must have a well-coordinated multi-sectoral people centred approach because it is all about people. We also need to look at available policies to see if they are harmonised and aligned in order to solve the problem,” Olu said.
The study findings indicate that having sufficient and diverse food is protective but food alone is not sufficient to eradicate stunting in Rwandan households.
Rwanda’s development policies and programmes to combat malnutrition have yielded positive results, as confirmed by the triennial Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis 2015 report.
The report launched earlier this month in Kigali, indicates a reduction of chronic malnutrition (stunting) among children under five years from 43 per cent to 36.7 per cent over the last three years.
The average annual rate of reduction in stunting in Rwanda is above the African average, though still behind best practice countries such as Brazil.
Some of the national strategies and programmes that have been put in place to fight malnutrition and food insecurity in Rwanda include the National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan, the 3rd Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture, and the Health Sector Strategic Plan.
Others include the Social Protection Sector Strategic Plan, which involves increasing the affordability of dairy products; increasing access of school and pre-school children to nutritious food, One Cow per Poor Family programme (Girinka), and the One Cup of Milk per Child Programme and the Home Grown School Feeding, among other initiatives.