Rwanda Families Empowered to Curb Malnutrition and Stunting
Although Rwanda has recorded improvements, stunting and malnutrition remains a challenge especially among children and women. It is recorded at 38% among children under five and only 18% meet the Minimum Acceptable Diet (MAD). Young mothers are hit hard and Nirere Alphonsine (34 years) has not been spared. Her ordeal dates way back to a severed childhood when Alphonsine did not have enough to feed on causing deficiencies in vital nutrients. Now at 34 years of age, she is a mother of two who were born with mild signs of cognitive impairment due to poor feeding by their mother during pregnancy.
“Whenever I was pregnant, I would feel weak, unable to walk or do my chores. I did not know I was malnourished and this affected my babies,” It is a miracle that my first born is alive because I nearly lost my own life when I was pregnant,” Nirere says with a sigh!
Alphonsine is a resident of Nyabihu District, one of the districts with a high stunting rate of 59% (DHS 2015 Report). Her own sector of Rurembo has recorded many children and pregnant mothers who continue to lack enough nutritious diets. This directly adds to the rate of morbidity and mortality of mothers and infants. The community needed to be mobilized and rescued from poverty.
A lifeline for Nirere came in 2017 when she was enrolled into a care group. These are some of the activities organised by Hinga Weze, a USAID/Feed the Future funded program that aims to improve the nutritional status of women and children. This is part of its core mission to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of Rwandan women and children, and increase the resilience of agriculture and food systems to the changing climate.
Hinga Weze uses Care Groups model (CGs) and Community-Based Volunteers (CBVs) to reach families and these are then encouraged to form or join clusters. Through these groups members are receive messages on behavioral change and are encouraged to adopt better nutritional practices. Beneficiaries are also coached how to provide care for children from 0-5 years old and adopt non-gendered roles in the households. Together with her husband, Nirere is taking the lead to encourage her cluster group called DUHASHYE BWACYI (Let’s fight against malnutrition and stunting) to grow set up home gardens of nutritious vegetables.
“We now have home gardens with vegetables for our families. Through training, we know how to prepare nutritious meals especially for pregnant women and children,” Nirere says happily. My husband too comes along and we have been taught to budget together, He has learnt to be involved in our domestic management as well as supporting me in preparing home gardens and family meals. Nirere’s family is among the 34,000 most vulnerable households supported by Hinga Weze to improve food security in 2018. Through CBV, the households were supported to establish 2,530 home gardens. and 21,510 benefited from integrated approaches, demonstrations and trainings on nutrition and adoption of new low-cost technologies in ten districts of Karongi, Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, Nyabihu, Ngororero, Nyamagabe, Gatsibo, Kayonza, Ngoma and Bugesera. The future is bright for Nirere.