A one-week campaign to raise awareness of the health benefits of milk and dairy products has been launched in Gisagara District.
The campaign, championed by Global Communities, an international non-governmental organisation, targets children, lactating mothers and pregnant women.
Launched Wednesday, the campaign is expected to reach at least 4,000 people in eight districts.
It will feature awareness drives on benefits of drinking milk and distribution of milk to children under the age of two.
According to Jeanne d’Arc Nyirajyambere, a health and nutrition specialist with the Global Communities/Usaid-Ejo Heza Project, the campaign will help fight malnutrition and stunting among children.
Stunting, which is caused by malnutrition, remains a key challenge against the growth of children, Nyirajyambere said.
Available figures indicate that 44 per cent of children across the country under the age of five are still affected by chronic malnutrition and/or stunted growth, Nyirajyambere said.
Gisagara District has one of the highest rate of children affected, with 48 per cent, officials said.
“This is mainly a result of lack of information on the part of parents on how they can better feed their children,” Nyirajyambere said.
“Milk remains a key source of nutrients that can contribute to fighting stunting among children and lead to a better body and mental growth.”
Milk is rich in proteins, calcium and Vitamins (including Vitamin A, B2 and B12) – ingredients that contribute to strong and healthy bones, support good growth of infants and contribute to improving health.
“Constant awareness and education campaigns are needed to ensure a mindset change and bring parents to recognise the importance of proper nutrition for their children,” Nyirajyambere said.
However, some parents who spoker to The New Times said poverty remains a serious challenge to regular milk consumption.
Adeline Nyiraminani, a mother of two, said she can only afford regular porridge for her children.
“Milk is expensive and I can’t afford it,” she said. “I do recognise that milk is rich in nutrients and I know my children need it but if I am not providing it to my children, it is only because I can’t afford it.”
But others said they have made efforts to ensure that their children can constantly access milk for their smooth growth.
Speaking at the function, Gisagara mayor Leandre Karekezi said the first step should be recognising the importance of milk consumption and then looking at available opportunities to ensure that family members drink milk.
He faulted some parents, mainly husbands, whom he said waste money in drinking alcohol and never mind about providing milk to their families.
“It is a matter of priorities,” he said, urging parents to make milk consumption part of their daily food ration.