Cases of chronic malnutrition could be reduced by more than 10 per cent thanks to a new financing deal between the Government of Rwanda and the World Bank Group.
The Government and the World Bank yesterday signed a $55 million deal (about Rwf47bn) to reduce stunting rates among children.
Part of the $55 million is a $25 million credit provided by the International Development Association (IDA) while the rest will come in as a grant jointly provided by the Power of Nutrition ($20 million) and the Global Financing Facility which injected in $ 10 million.
This partnership could see the rate of stunting ratio reduced from the current 43 per cent to less than 33 per cent among highly affected districts, officials said.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Claver Gatete, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, called the support a timely shot, adding that it will help address the issue of chronic malnutrition, especially among children between 5 and 13 years of age.
According to Gatete, the project will support the Government in adopting and implementing bold strategies to improve the visibility of stunting in Rwanda, and to deliver harmonised behavior change messages across various platforms.
The districts set to benefit from this support include Nyabihu, Ngororero, Karongi, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Rusizi, Nyamagabe, Huye, Nyaruguru, Ruhango, Gakenke, Kayonza and Bugesera.
The money will be utilised under an existing Social Protection project.
The Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, said the package will, among other things, boost malnutrition awareness among pregnant mothers.
Government is committed and will do everything within its reach to make sure stunting is eradicated once and for all, she noted.
According to Minister Gashumba, Rwanda Stunting Prevention and Reduction Project will help support community-based approaches, improve the delivery of high-impact nutrition and health interventions, incentivise frontline community health workers and health personnel.
"The Government of Rwanda is strongly committed to bending the arc of history on stunting, 38 per cent of children in Rwanda were stunted in 2015," said Gashumba.
The Government in partnership with the World Bank, the Power of Nutrition, and the Global Financing Facility (GFF), last month developed an integrated programme to combat chronic malnutrition, with a focus on high-stunting districts, vulnerable populations, and the critical 1,000 days beyond which stunting becomes largely irreversible.
In Rwanda, it is estimated that under nutrition is the underlying cause of 22 per cent of all child mortality, 13 per cent of primary school repetition, and lower adult wages leading to the annual loss of 11.5 per cent of GDP.
Yasser El-Gammal, the World Bank Country Manager, said the Government has shown great leadership in taking a bold effort to address chronic stunting.
"We are therefore proud to co-finance Rwanda's priorities and support multi-sectoral interventions to address stunting with a clear focus on improving people's livelihood," he said.
According to Demographic Health Survey 2015, stunting was on average at 38 per cent countrywide and investing in Early Childhood Development (ECD) will serve as an entry point for addressing malnutrition, in line with the recently issued ECD policy.