The ongoing screening for malnutrition targets over 1.9 million children under the age of five.
The drive, that started last Tuesday and is expected to end on April 4, is part of efforts to eliminate malnutrition-related ailments. It is being conducted at about 450 health centres countrywide.
“For the first three days, we were not only screening, but also gave out de-worming tablets, vitamin A pills, and Iron and Folic acids,” Leopold Kazungu, the head of community-based nutrition programme at the Ministry of Health told this paper.
He pointed out that the exercise is part of the “1,000 days” anti–malnutrition campaign.
“The only difference is that while the 1,000 days campaign targets children below the age of two, our focus is on five years and below,” he said.
Kazungu added that about 45,000 community-based health workers have been deployed.
“This screening will be thorough. It will involve measuring height, weight, and testing for ailments like Edema, and anyone found with any illness will be referred to hospitals for treatment,” he said.
“The screening will not only help us identify people who need treatment, but will also help look out for the most affected regions so that necessary intervention can be made,” Kazungu added.
He said behaviour change is a challenge as far as the fight against malnutrition is concerned.
“In certain areas, people are reluctant to turn up for such exercises even after being sensitised,” he said.
Kazungu said that during the screening exercise, health officials sensitise people about the need to have vegetable gardens.
Fidele Majyambere, the project manager of Matrac, a local NGO that advocates for child nutrition, said the screening was important in tackling nutritional diseases.
He said the most common disease countrywide is Kwashiokor.
Aidah Akimana, a resident of Kiramuruzi Sector, Gatsibo District, Eastern Province, expressed confidence that the exercise would cause behaviour change.
“It is common to find parents selling off all the nutritious foodstuff after harvest, instead of sparing some for feeding. We are hoping that this campaign will bring about change in attitude,” Akimana said.