A NEW CAMPAIGN which seeks to encourage milk consumption in families was on Tuesday launched in Nyanza District.
The campaign, which is championed by CHF International through the USAID-funded Ejo Heza programme, is set to last three months.
It targets to improve the health of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children.
According to Emy Davis, the chief of party for the USAID/Ejo Heza, the campaign comes as a response to a survey which revealed low milk consumption in the country.
The survey, conducted mid-last year, covered eight districts in the Southern and Western provinces. The districts are Karongi, Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Gisagara, Nyanza and Huye.
According to the survey, the low consumption was blamed on various reasons such as people opting to sell off their milk produce instead of drinking it while in other cases, some families could not afford the milk. Low milk production is also cited as another reason behind the low milk consumption.
“The study does tell us that milk consumption is a good solution to malnutrition since milk is highly rich in nutrients,” Davis told The New Times, adding that the new campaign seeks to ‘promote healthy nutrition’ and will continue with the aim of changing people’s mindset towards milk consumption.
“We will continue this campaign for the next three months in a very concentrated way and it will be renewed every year until 2016,” she said, noting that efforts shall be put on the benefits of milk and also benefits of breastfeeding, good nutrition and diversified diet.
Residents speak out
Milk is credited to be rich in proteins, calcium and Vitamins – ingridients that contribute to strong and healthy bones, support good growth of infants and contribute to improving people’s health in general.
Claudine Ingabire, a resident of Rwabicuma Sector, told this paper that she understands these benefits and that she tries to serve milk to her four children.
“I don’t sell any of the milk I get from my cows,” she said. “All the two litres I get every day is served to my children because I know they need it.”
But some residents can not afford to buy milk.
“Limited resources compel some of us to avoid milk because we cannot afford it,” said Esther Nyampundu, 34, a resident of Kibinja Cell in Mukingo Sector.
However, Nyampundu notes a significant change ever since the One Cow per poor Family (Girinka) programme was introduced.
“As people continue to receive cows, they get the opportunity to produce their own milk for consumption and sale,” Nyampundu said.
Statistics indicate that more than 130,000 families have benefited from the One Cow Per poor Family programme since its inception in 2006.
But not all individuals fully understand that it is important to consume milk, with some of them preferring to sell their production to get money.
“When you sell all the milk, you deprive your family of an important source of nutrients,” Claudine Ingabire, a resident, said.
“Before I owned a cow, my children were not healthy. But their health improved ever since they started consuming milk on a regular basis,” she testified.
According to Andrew Kagabo, the Girinka programme national co-ordinator, residents are encouraged to first consume milk before selling the excess.
“If some individuals continue to sell off all their [milk] production, that’s an issue of poor mindset,” he noted, saying that intensified education campaigns would finally tackle it.
Benefits of drinking milk
Consuming milk during pregnancy and while nursing a newborn can help improve the calcium content. Women can reap many benefits from drinking milk, especially during menopause, for strong bones and a healthy body.
You can add milk to your diet in the form of milkshakes, cornflakes, and cocktails with chocolates, hazelnut syrups and replacing water with milk in recipes.
However, people who are allergic to milk contents like lactose have to depend on supplements or other sources of calcium and vitamin to balance their diet.