chronic malnutrition of children in RwandaRanked at 166 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world, struggling with household food insecurity and extreme undernutrition.

This undernutrition causes 21.9 percent of deaths in children, with only 20 percent of children in Rwanda having access to food rich in iron. Iron is especially important for children under five for growth and cognitive development.

Stunting is when a child is short for their age and is a result of chronic malnutrition, negatively affecting their brain development and health. This results in children being four times more likely to die before the age of five. Stunting is caused by chronic malnutrition, and in Rwanda, 47 percent of rural children are stunted, along with 27 percent of urban children.

These numbers have caught the world’s attention, resulting in programs working to reduce the chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda. These programs involve the government of Rwanda and the World Bank, The Power of Nutrition and the Global Financing Facility.

These programs have recently pledged to create an integrated program to combat chronic malnutrition, focusing on high-stunting areas and vulnerable populations through their funds and supportive methods.

Here are some of the ways each program is supporting Rwanda through its chronic malnutrition crisis.

The Government of Rwanda and the World Bank

These two groups signed a $23 million additional financing agreement on April 18, 2018. Working with the Nutrition Sensitive Direct Support, these funds will provide cash transfers to vulnerable families who are at risk of malnutrition.

The World Bank Vice President, Makhtar Diop, voiced his concern about this issue, saying, “We must act with a sense of urgency because our children’s future is at stake.”

The World Bank has also added to its current portfolio of $600 million, and pledged to invest $1 billion over the next five years in order to support Rwanda’s journey to prosperity. With this help, improvements have already been seen in Rwanda, with poverty rates decreasing from 59 percent to 45 percent over the last 10 years.

The decrease in poverty will allow citizens to spend more money on necessary food items to reduce malnutrition. These statistics show the success of programs working to reduce chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda.

The Power of Nutrition

The Power of Nutrition has also pledged to invest $35 million for the cause of reducing chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda. Power of Nutrition lives by its motto: “Multiply Money, Maximize Children’s Lives, That’s the Power of Nutrition”. Its belief is that stopping undernutrition is one of the best ways to improve a child’s life and increase their chance of survival.

In Rwanda, 22 percent of all children’s deaths are correlated with undernutrition.

Because of ongoing health problems, children are unable to continue their education, leading to lower adult wages which impact Rwanda to the tune of 11.5 percent of GDP per year. Improving child malnutrition therefore will not only benefit children and their families, but also the government of Rwanda.

The Global Financing Facility

The Global Financing Facility studies the influence of the allocation of resources to different countries in need, finding the shocking results of an estimated $33 billion annual financing gap between countries.

Therefore, it has dedicated its work towards closing the funding gap, and providing struggling countries, such as Rwanda, with a more attainable goal of abolishing chronic malnutrition.

There are many programs working to reduce chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda, many more than the four mentioned above. However, although chronic malnutrition has decreased in Rwanda, it is important to realize that the country still needs a great deal of assistance.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Rwanda

In July, the Rwanda Biomedical Center and UNICEF ran a health awareness campaign in Rwamagana, which revolved around the continued fight against malnutrition in Rwanda.

Rwanda has made impressive developmental progress since the tragedy in 1994. According to the Ministry of Health, the mortality rate for children under 5 has declined more than 60 percent since the 1990s.

Despite this progress, the stunting of children under 5 remains at 38 percent, due to chronic malnutrition, nutritional imbalance and food insecurity. The recent campaign in Rwamagana reported that this number could be cut in half, as long as parents personally ensured that their children were eating the recommended diet.

Stunting is particularly prevalent in rural areas, for these regions are typically the most impoverished and the least educated – both critical influences on the likelihood of malnutrition.

Stunting hinders physical and psychological growth, permanently affecting a child’s long-term development and capacity. Given these dire consequences, the government has scaled up community health outreach, mobilizing door-to-door nutrition education in the most remote areas.

Malnutrition doesn’t usually take lives directly, instead increasing childhood susceptibility to death from diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV. Particularly, malnutrition decreases the efficacy of antiretroviral therapy, making this chronic condition a large roadblock in the management of the HIV pandemic in Rwanda.

In rural areas, the availability of nutritious food is scarce, especially during agricultural lean periods. The typical diet of cereals and tubers is completely nutritionally imbalanced, leading to deficiencies in protein, iron, vitamin A and iodine.

The government has been working ceaselessly to reduce malnutrition in Rwanda through community organization, mass media initiatives and investment in a National Nutrition Policy. This policy aims to promote sectoral collaboration, simultaneously reducing poverty through the investment in human health.

The Rwamagana campaign targeted lifestyle changes as essential components of the fight against chronic malnutrition. These grim statistics could be transformed through increased parental responsibility, the promotion of alternative sources of income during agricultural setbacks and the assistance of smallholder farmers.

Food insecurity is a primary element of malnutrition, so linking small farmers to their markets is essential. WFP’s Purchase for Progress does just this, providing strength, support and security to rural Rwandan economies.

The WFP and the government additionally fight malnutrition in Rwanda through grassroots community involvement programs, including home grown school feeding programs, monthly childhood growth monitoring and baby-friendly hospital initiatives to promote breastfeeding.

The government of Rwanda understands that the reduction of malnutrition is a complex feat; requiring support from many sectors, such as health, education, commerce and agriculture. Ensuring equal access to nutritional education and treatment is crucial to countrywide hunger alleviation.

Chronic malnutrition in Rwanda interferes with many of the Millennium Development Goals, as it sustains poverty, obstructs educational progress and facilitates the detrimental impact of preventable diseases. With continued focus and diligence, Rwanda can continue to make progress in the promotion of its children’s health.

Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr