The newly established National Early Childhood Development Programme will help fast-track implementation of anti-malnutrition measures in the country, the Prime Minister has said. Edouard Ngirente gave the reassurance in the Senate where he laid out strategies to eradicate malnutrition, especially among children under five years in Rwanda.
Although stunting as a result of malnutrition stands at 38 per cent among children under five, the premier said that there is hope that this number will be significantly reduced in the future given different programmes that are in place to fight malnutrition.
The programmes include distributing fortified flour to vulnerable parents with children under five, working with community health workers to engage with parents with malnourished children so the latter can be taken to health centres for treatment, as well as running different campaigns that encourage mothers to breastfeed their children in their early age.
Other programmes on which the government banks to find solutions to the thorny issue of malnutrition is strengthening the One-Cow-Per-Poor-Family programme under which poor parents would get milk for their children and getting community health workers to coach parents on how to prepare a decent meal for children as well as how to keep appropriate hygiene for food consumption.
Though the initiatives are not new to the country, Premier Ngirente said that the fact that a National Early Childhood Development Programme was set up by the government constitutes new hope in fighting malnutrition because it will help coordinate the initiatives. He said that the programme, which is based at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, will help coordinate all programmes against malnutrition across the country.
The Prime Minister encouraged all Rwandans to work together to end child malnutrition, explaining that implementation of anti-malnutrition programmes requires collective efforts, especially among parents.
Senate Vice-President Fatou Harerimana said the National Early Childhood Development Programme presents new hope for ending malnutrition because it will help with the coordination of all programmes against malnutrition. “These programmes need coordination and empowering the National Early Childhood Development Programme to coordinate activities against malnutrition seems to be the best solution,” she said.
Several senators advised the Government to increase efforts aimed at teaching citizens about keeping hygiene and doing family planning because they remain some of the ways to eradicate malnutrition. “The government should introduce measures to ensure that every home has a decent toilet because sometimes poor hygiene is the main cause for malnutrition, whereby the little food people eat is swallowed by worms,” said Senator Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo.
Senator Charles Uyisenga said that without serious measures to promote family planning many parents will continue to struggle getting enough to feed their children, a factor that may worsen child malnutrition. “We should check whether poor family planning isn’t one of the reasons for malnutrition. The Government should find a way of promoting family planning if the issue of malnutrition is to be dealt with,” he said.