More efforts to improve nutrition and child health care within the country are needed, public health experts and journalists from the Association of Rwanda Female Journalists (Arfem) have said.
They were conducting outreach training of over 300 mothers and fathers on meal planning, breastfeeding and primary health care toward child development in Masaka Sector, Kicukiro District over the weekend.
The Health ministry says proper nutrition during 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and the child’s second birthday can save the child from contracting non-communicable diseases like diabetes, which may affect the child’s educational achievement.
“Proper nutrition leads to profound brain development that greatly contributes to a child’s learning and growth,” said Mariane Nyirarugwiro, the vice chairperson of ARFEM.
She said parents in villages still have a challenge to manage both their nutritional lifestyle and that of their children after delivery yet the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and the child’s second birthday contribute a lot to the child’s health.
Aimee Naganze, a health activist, advised mothers to breast feed their babies for at least two years.
“A well breast fed child is less likely to fall sick as breast milk provides natural passive immunity in form of colostrum,” Naganze explained.
“Working mothers have limited time but should avail breast milk to their babies through expression. After cleaning the breast, a mother should express the milk through a clean container and thereafter store it in a cool place. This milk can last for about eight hours but should be warmed in water before use,” Naganze added.
Fransco Nyiramana Uwase, a resident of Masaka and a mother of a nine-month old baby, said she had wanted to wean her child after the first six months but restrained herself after the baby’s health deteriorated towards the end of the seventh month.
“I was told to resume breast feeding while supplementing it with nutritious food at the age of nine. It was quite challenging, because I felt that the food was expensive for a daily expenditure yet that was not the case, all that was needed was to balance the diet and urge my husband to be more supportive,” she said.
Faith Mbabazi, the chairperson of Arfem said mothers can easily obtain nutritious food from using the limited resources.
“It is important for both parents to take responsibility and ensure proper nutrition for their households,” she said.