Rwanda + 1 more

Reducing Malnutrition in Refugees in Rwanda

WFP has scaled up its intervention to tackle malnutrition among children in Mahama camp, in Eastern Rwanda and home to over 23,000 Burundian refugees. The intervention has contributed to lowered child malnutrition rates to 9 percent.

Ndolimana Jeannette is a 37 year mother of five living in Mahama camp. She fled her home in Ngozi, in north eastern part of Burundi for fear of being killed by militia. On the journey to Rwanda she was particularly worried about her 2 year old daughter Niyomugisha Geraldine who was already malnourished and she feared her condition would worsen given the lack of food available.

On arrival at the Bugesera reception centre in Rwanda, her family was given high energy biscuits, ready-to-use-supplementary food to treat Geraldine’s malnutrition and a fortified porridge to prevent further decent into malnutrition. Jeannette was transferred to Mahama camp together with other refugees and continued to receive food assistance from WFP. Geraldine’s nutrition status has significantly improved.

“I am happy to see my daughter smiling for the new day,” said Jeannette with a broad smile.

Over half of the 32,000 Burundian refugees in Rwanda are children and every other child is chronically malnourished. WFP’s effort to reduce malnutrition among the refugees has included the introduction of nutrient-rich fortified food into the general ration for refugees. Supplementary feeding has helped to reduce acute malnutrition rate since the onset of the emergency from 30 percent to 9 percent among children under five years.

Moderately acute malnourished children are receiving ready-to-use supplementary food – specialized food supplements from WFP - to help them recover. Additionally, WFP provides (blanket) supplementary feeding to all young children and are given a hot meal daily of a nutrient-rich porridge to avert further deterioration of refugees’ nutritional status. The goal of the two programmes is to both prevent and treat malnutrition in order to improve the nutrition status of all children under five years in the camp.

The excessively high rates of chronic malnutrition (stunting) in children is of great concern, with one in two children suffering from this serious form of undernutrition. A recent survey also indicated that three out of five children are anaemic, an indication of micronutrient deficiencies. Both stunting and micronutrient deficiencies can cause serious growth and health problems, make children more susceptible to illness and in the most extreme case be fatal. WFP has introduced micronutrient fortified food in the general food distribution to ensure that there are adequate nutrients in the refugee ration for the whole household. The WFP nutrition strategy seeks to address all forms of undernutrition so that children like Geraldine can recover, grow and play.

“We are very pleased that the work of WFP has contributed to the reduction in GAM rates in the camp,” said Jean-Pierre Demargerie, WFP Country Director. “However the rates of stunting and micronutrient deficiencies remain above emergency thresholds and addressing this is now a priority for WFP.”

WFP is on the ground in the new transit camp at Mahama and the three transit centres providing food assistance to Burundian refugees, starting as soon as they cross the border. We provide High Energy Biscuits to refugees as they cross the border, hot meals in the transit centres and continue with the general food distribution once they move to the Mahama camp.

The interventions to assist Burundian refugees are being implemented and coordinated between the government of Rwanda, UNHCR, and other UN agencies and NGOs, each of which plays a key role in meeting the full spectrum of humanitarian needs.

In addition to the new influx of Burundian refugees, Rwanda is a home to over 73,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo hosted in five camps. Most of them have been in camps for the last 15 years and depend entirely on WFP food assistance.