The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Bugesera Mothers Step Up Anti-Malnutrition Campaign

Children and their mothers enjoy an African meal made of pounded beans, cassava, bananas and green vegetables locally called dodo.

On the side is a cup of maize, sorghum and soya porridge for each child.

The 50 children at a church at Cyahafi village in Nyarugenge sector, Bugesera district, are benefitting from 'Hearth Session', a programme aimed at alleviating malnutrition.

They are part of 700 children from Ruhuha, Shyara, Nyarugenge and Mareba sectors in Bugesera district who are stunted, underweight, or under-height. They are all under five years.

"My child has always been underweight and skinny but now I can see him regain good health. However, he still weighs less than 10 kilos yet he is five years old," said Seraphine Mukabanyana, the mother of Theogene Niyonkuru.

"Our objective is to see malnourished children become healthier," said Theonille Mukamutesi, coordinator of Tubarere Association, which caters for the children.

Tubarere Association, which started in 2008, is composed of 158 women care-givers, trained by World Vision on how to prepare a balanced diet.

"After the training, we voluntarily started teaching others how to prepare vegetables. Each village has a hearth session where malnourished children come with their mothers to eat a balanced diet," Mukamutesi said.

The caregivers gather ingredients from their own farms for the meals while their mothers learn how to prepare a balanced diet.

"One caregiver will bring potatoes, another tomatoes and so and so forth, then we make a balanced meal," Mukamutesi said. They have also helped in constructing about 5,000 kitchens at the hosts' homes in the four sectors.

Each village has a hearth session and for village leaders, kwashiorkor and other malnutrition-related diseases are gradually disappearing.

The caregivers normally meet once a week and each child is a beneficiary of the programme for six months.

But when severe cases of malnutrition appear, the children receive daily care for 12 weeks.

Weaning off hearth session:

The caregivers say that sometimes children who regain health and go back to their homes, to poverty and other dire living conditions, become malnourished again.

This is because; some families are not in position to give their children a proper diet like the one given by the caretakers.

Fred Rurangirwa, the Executive Secretary of Ruhuha says that as local leaders, they are aware of the plight of children after completing 'their treatment', adding that they have adopted other techniques to enable prolonged success.

Meanwhile, the health community workers association at Ruhuha Health Centre, also put in place a mechanism to help malnourished children get better.

"We want to eradicate malnutrition by June. This we are doing by giving citizens rabbits," said Venantie Mukeshamariya, president of Turwane Kubuzima Association of community health workers.

This association plans to give out 3,000 rabbits by June.

Government officials believe that malnutrition is caused by poor preparation of food and say people need to embrace techniques of preparing a more balanced diet.

Government last year launched a campaign to fight malnutrition within six months. It cited the one-cow per family initiative, commonly known as Girinka, the construction of vegetables gardens (akarima k'igikoni), one cup of milk per child, and terracing to improve agricultural production, among the various programmes that seek to improve the welfare of the ordinary people.

Statistics indicate that about 16,000 families are undernourished countrywide.

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