Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

Rwanda: From Malnutrition to Hope

47-year-old Bosco Nizeyimana and his wife, 25-year-old Speciose Bampire, from Murundi sector in Karongi, have a story to tell - one of hopelessness due to malnutrition-related diseases. Both illiterate, they do not even remember when they got married.

"It's was a long time ago," Nizeyimana says, his wife watching him in silence.

Nizeyimana was born in a family of five. He grew up suffering all sorts of malnourishment problems which he blames on not attending school. "I was a malnourished child, always sick, and I can remember my mother taking me to nutrition centers even when I was between 10 and 15 years old. I don't remember in my childhood playing with my fellow kids, because I was always sick."

Bampire's childhood was not any different from her husband's. The first-born in a family of 10 children, Bampire also never attended school. "I was always helping my mum in our daily survival, cultivating for the wealthy to get some food or money," she remembers. "I liked the way girls of my age looked neat when going to school. I always envied them and wanted to become an educated woman to help my mother. But I couldn't. If I would have gone to school, then my mum wouldn't be able to bring home enough for all of us."

Though the couple does not remember when they got married, they know all too well the hell their family has gone through. Currently parents to three children (two boys and a girl), they have lost another three to malnutrition.

"These are our last three children. We had six children, but the first three died from malnutrition," Bampire says tearfully.

"When I was young I was committed to working hard in order to give to my children a better life that the one I had, but it was not easy and it is sad to see that I lost my children," Nizeyimana sighs.

Yet today, the future seems bright. They have received a cow from Action Aid through local leaders, which helps them fertilize their small plot for better production. "Ever since we have received this cow, we have had fertilizers for our land and we been harvesting more. That has helped us feed our children at least once a day. Before there were times we had food only four times in an entire week," testifies Bampire.

Now that the cow has bred, the family expects to get some milk to improve their diet.

When contacted, local leaders admitted that initially they didn't realize that there were families in their sector with such kind of malnutrition. "When I heard about the family, I visited them and forwarded their names to Action Aid for help," the sector's agronomist said.

For now, the family is hopeful - at least the three remaining kids look healthy, although dirty.

"My kids have not been sick for long time now," Bampire says. "I hope it stays this way. I go to the nearest health center once in a while to check their health. These ones, I don't want to lose."

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