You are what you eat. Literally, your health is what you eat. But do you know what to eat to stay healthy?
This week, City of Kigali, in partnership with International Potato Centre (CIP), organised a weeklong campaign aimed at educating city dwellers on how to stay healthy by eating the right diet.
Under the theme, “Promoting Diversified Diet and Innovative Urban Farming for a better and Well-Nourished City,” the campaign was launched Wednesday at Nyarurenzi Health Centre in Mageragere Sector in Nyarugenge District.
According to officials, one focus of the campaign is to increase consumption of bio-fortified foods, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, diversification of diets.
The campaign follows findings of the latest Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), which show that 38 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted. In Kigali city, the rate stands at 23 per cent.
Patricie Muhongerwa, the City vice-mayor in charge of social affairs, said malnutrition is still a challenge especially for people in urban settings as they have to buy most of the foodstuff from the market compared to rural areas where people can grow crops.
“Many people in urban areas have small spaces (land) but they are not utilising them well. This is why we are showing them how best they can maintain a healthy diet by planting fruits, vegetables on the space they have,” she said.
Muhongerwa said that the City, along with its partners, seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate malnutrition in the city.
Activities taking place
During the campaign, residents will be taught how to make use of kitchen gardens, grow orange-fleshed potatoes which are rich in calories and vitamin A as well as other minerals.
With the limited space, the population is expected to use innovative methods of farming, such as vertical farming approach and conventional kitchen garden.
This, according to officials, is seen to be cheaper and easier to manage than traditional kitchen garden.
The campaign will also be taken to restaurants and the media to change the way citizens make decision on what to eat.
For instance, people working in restaurants will be shown and educated on how to prepare healthy foods, including orange-fleshed sweet potatoes without losing their nutrients.
Jacqueline Karimunyana is among the residents who got information on how to feed of proper diet that prevents malnutrition.
“This is a good step toward eradicating malnutrition. I have a child who has been suffering from malnutrition. Knowing that this is avoidable, it’s a big step forward that will see my family have a healthy life again,” she said.
Karimunyana has a farm but had not been utilising it well, but with the information she acquired, she said she was confident there would be a big difference in her family’s feeding pattern.
Eugenie Mukakarangwa confessed her granddaughter is undernourished, not because she has no means of solving the issue, but due to lack of information.
“I appreciate this move as I have known now that having an undernourished child is just neglect. With the limited space we have, the initiative is easy to implement,” she said.
Dr Robert Ackatiah Armah, the regional nutritionist at International Potato Centre, said, for long, they have been observing malnutrition rate in Kigali, and came up with the idea to help people who do not have enough land space to grow their own food and vegetables.
“This initiative will ensure that each and every household has steady supply of fruits and vegetables. This will keep them away from other infectious diseases caused by poor feeding habits,” he said.
A report on the state of non-communicable diseases in the country shows that only 0.3 per cent of the population consume fruits daily, 0.9 per cent eat vegetables, and 99.1 per cent eat less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Dr Armah said people should make healthy choices by eating healthy.
As countries like Rwanda develop and move into middle and high income economies, unhealthy diets, less physical activities and exposure to tobacco, and alcohol are some of the habits that greatly affect the population.
During the launch, farmers were given orange flesh sweet potatoes vine as a way of improving their incomes.
Children under the age of five were served with a balanced diet, including orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, beans, vegetables, fruits, milk and eggs – that diet include all the vital vitamins required for a child to grow well.
At the end of the campaign, residents are expected to be taught the linkage between exercise and healthy eating habits.
Fruits and veges
According to Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of nutrition at University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), eating vegetables provides one with enormous health benefits.
For instance, the nutrients found in vegetables such as potassium, dietry fibre, folate, vitamin A, E and C are vital for health and maintenance of one’s body.
“Eating a diet rich in green vegetables can reduce risks of many diseases, including malnutrition, cancer, heart diseases as well as type 2 diabetes,” he says.
To avoid malnutrition in children, consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is crucial as they give more energy and nutrients for their growth and development period.