Recently, a high-level workshop was held in Kigali with the aim of strengthening the capacity of parliamentarians to review and track national resources allocated to programmes fighting malnutrition.
According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) the percentage of stunted children under the age of five dropped from 38 per cent to 33 per cent in the last five years.
However, experts say in order to reduce this percentage to 19 from 33 percent by 2024, the budget allocated for nutrition should be increased.
“Five percent reduction is a great achievement for the country though there is still a long way to go. When you have a malnourished generation, you don’t expect positive results in terms of economic growth,” says Justine Mukobwa, Rwanda women parliamentary forum (FFRP) –secretary general.
Mukobwa notes that there is a need in building capacities of members to understand the concept of malnutrition, the nutrition itself as well as being able to analyze the budget put in nutrition by the government.
The 2020/21 budget allocated for nutrition programs was Rwf8.49 billion for Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), with the target to ensure national security.
Rwanda biomedical center (RBC) was allocated Rwf2.049bn for the nutrition program, as Rwf9.95bn went to National Early Childhood Development program (NECDP) for nutrition services support.
MIGEPROF on the other hand was allocated Rwf10.04bn for nutrition and hygiene coordination, while MINISANTE received Rwf20.18bn for the project of stunting prevention and reduction.
Dr. Christine Mukantwali, Ph.D. President of Rwanda Nutrition Society, however, notes that there is still much to be done to bring stunting down in the country, especially through appropriate feeding of young children starting from when the mother is pregnant up to when a child is five years of age.
“Once the nutrition activities are being given a high priority with an increased fund to it under the Governments’ budget; it will have an impact on the lives of people and eradicate malnutrition,” she said.
Prof.Omar Munyaneza, the chairperson of national Budget and patrimony Committee says in order to ensure reduction of national stunting rate from 33 percent to 29.9 percent in 2021 as per NISR, members of the parliament as well have to be engaged in ending malnutrition by visiting the citizens to identify the problem they are facing.
Dr Anita Asiimwe as Director-General of National Child Development Agency says the government will continue to invest in both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive nutrition through various sectors that contribute to improved nutrition including Health, agriculture, water and sanitation, and Education.
Covid 19 and nutrition
Recently, the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) unveiled a position paper calling upon African Heads of State and Governments to ensure that financing for nutrition is included in their country’s COVID-19 response and recovery plans.
The paper recommends that countries maintain and increase the level of funding allocated to nutrition to safeguard previous efforts to address malnutrition.
Dr. Sindi Kirimi, an agricultural economist says before even the pandemic, Africa in general was facing a lot of nutrition issues.
According to the paper, 97 percent of African have a prevalence rate of stunting between 20 and 30 percent.
Also, 55 percent of African countries have a high prevalence of anemia among women of reproductive age 20 and 39.9 percent.
“COVID-19 has affected a lot of food supply chain and production. Study also shows that 80 percent of the informal jobs were affected,” he says.
Meanwhile, reports produced by Bill and Melinda Foundation for the year 2019 called Goalkeepers says that extreme poverty has increased by 7 percent in the last 5 months alone.
The report also indicates that this has pushed 37 million people below the extreme poverty rate of USD 1.9 percent.
For the low medium earners, the report indicates that it has pushed 69 million people below 3.2 USD.
Whether we will hit the stated targets, Sindi says, the answer will depend on how fast African countries can contain the COVID-19. Otherwise, it’s hard to even go back to the level where we were before the pandemic.