Clinton, Kagame unveil new anti-malnutrition drive

Former US President Bill Clinton yesterday announced a new initiative to help reduce child malnutrition in the country.
Presidents Kagame and Clinton in Kigali yesterday. The New Times/Village Urugwiro.
Presidents Kagame and Clinton in Kigali yesterday. The New Times/Village Urugwiro.

Former US President Bill Clinton yesterday announced a new initiative to help reduce child malnutrition in the country.

The new drive, backed by the former US leader whose two-day visit to Rwanda is part of his ongoing tour of his foundation’s projects on the African continent, will see local companies supported to produce fortified food for under-five children and pregnant and lactating women. Food fortification is the practice of adding nutrients to food and drinks.

President Clinton, who visited with his daughter Chelsea, was joined by President Paul Kagame to announce the new programme in Kigali.

At the launch, Presidents Clinton and Kagame said the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Government of Rwanda, and the World Food Programme would work closely with the private sector, notably food producers, to combat malnutrition.

“You have the means to distribute nutritional food and to produce it,” Clinton said, pointing out that Rwanda’s 43,000 volunteer health workers are well-positioned to help distribute the children’s food across the country. “I have an enormous amount of confidence in this project because this is Rwanda and I have never seen you fail,” President Clinton said.

President Kagame said his government was “fully committed” to the nutritious food project, pledging to do everything possible to make the campaign a success.

The fortified food processing programme, which Clinton said will be rolled out in both Rwanda and Ethiopia, will be distributed to vulnerable infants, and pregnant and lactating women to reduce incidences of infant mortality and stunting.

Health officials say that the rate of stunting among children under the age of five in the country remains a big challenge. Statistics indicate that stunting in the country stood at 51 per cent in 2005 and 44 per cent in 2010.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, has previously said that these figures remained “far too high”.

“Malnutrition is unacceptable in Rwanda and indeed anywhere else in the world,” Kagame said, citing other countries’ programmes designed to help roll back malnutrition, including the One-Cow-per-Family scheme under which cows are donated to poor families.

“The factory that will be producing the fortified nutritious food will benefit many more people in our region and will lead to the elimination of hunger and malnutrition and improved livelihoods,” he added.

The World Food Programme (WFP) pledged to buy the fortified food for its beneficiaries should Rwanda successfully produce it.

Funding local suppliers

WFP’s regional director, Valérie Guarnieri, told journalists that the UN agency spends nearly US$150 million every year to import babies’ fortified food from Europe, funds  she promised could potentially go to local suppliers should they produce the food.  

Clinton and his daughter also visited a demonstration of Procter and Gamble Clinton Global Initiative water cleaning project which will deliver water cleaning technology to households in rural areas in Bugesera and Gatsibo districts, Eastern Province.

They also visited a Clinton Hunter Development Initiative (CHDI) coffee roasting factory construction site in Gikondo in Kigali and the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Kigali (CHUK) where American health practitioners are training local counterparts under the auspices of the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

The Clintons’ African tour is covering five countries where Clinton Foundation runs several projects.

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