The New Times (Kigali)

13 December 2012

Rwanda: Herbalists Blamed for Child Malnutrition

Kirehe — Malnutrition remains a key cause of numerous diseases that have led to death of children under the age of five in Rwanda. However, the irony to this is that herbalists have been blamed for this.

Most rural residents in Eastern Province, particularly in Kirehe and Ngoma districts, prefer herbs from traditional healers to drugs prescribed at health centres.

This revelation came up during a meeting that brought together local leaders, clerics and administrators from district hospitals to discuss malnutrition in the province.

According to Alice Muhongerwa, the provincial coordinator National Women Council (CNF), the persistence of malnutrition in the area was mainly due to traditional healers.

She requested the government to take stern measures to stop the herbalists from taking advantage of people's ignorance.

"In Kirehe, it is a sad reality...malnutrition has prevailed because of herbalists. Parents keep on feeding their children on herbs instead of recommended foods like beans and milk, which they do not lack by the way.

"A typical example is that of Gahara Sector which is the richest in food production and has the highest cases of malnutrition. Ignorance is still a problem," she wondered.

Muhongerwa further noted that children suffering from malnutrition were mainly from families engulfed in conflict or those borne by commercial sex workers.

"Poor parenting and malnutrition are inseparable...most children with malnutrition are from families that are always in conflict," she revealed.

The Director of Kibungo Hospital Dr. William Namanya, reiterated the need to check the activities of herbalists in the area.

"Some herbalists were given temporary licences to operate while others don't even care about procuring them. It is true that most rural educated families prefer them to doctors. Unfortunately, they cause more harm than good...they can't handle malnutrition for instance," he said.

Bugesera District has the highest cases of child malnutrition in the province which stands at 0.6 percent.

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