Parents in Rwamagana District who had malnourished children have said their offspring will not have to endure such a situation again as they now have enough skills to fight and prevent malnutrition.
They said this Thursday during a visit to USAID/Ubaka Ejo project in Rwamagana by Sonali Korde, USAID global Senior Administrator.
USAID/Ubaka Ejo works to fight malnutrition among children, mainly under the age of five. It is implemented by African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE-RWANDA).
The project focuses on nutrition interventions in the district, growth monitoring and promotion, nutrition rehabilitation and education as well as counselling for mothers.
When it was identified that her then two-year old child was malnourished, Leoncia Tuyisenge, 28, a resident in Ryamirenge Village, Nkomangwa Cell in Munyiginya Sector, was asked to join a group of parents in the village with a similar problem.
At first, she was confused and did not know how it would help her child.
"My child was in that state not because we lacked at home food, it was basically because I had no skills in nutrition. But since I joined this programme, not only has my child's life changed but that of every member of my family," she told The New Times.
Every month, children are screened, and when they are found malnourished, they are immediately put on an intensive 12-day programme that involves cooking for the child, educating the parents on nutrition and hygiene, among others, she said.
According to available statistics, of the 57,766 children screened in the district, 3,338 were found with moderate malnutrition while 1,093 had severe malnutrition. All of them have fully recovered.
To achieve the results, the project, which started in 2012, has supported the establishment of 474 community-based nutrition programme sites, 474 savings groups and 652 farmer field schools at the village level.
Odette Nsenguwera, 35, a mother of three in the same village, said: "They have given us domestic animals and taught us how to build kitchen gardens. Now everyone has it in their home".
The animals (rabbits, goats and pigs) were given to 6,605 families.
Parents in the village also learned how to make soybean milk or toffee and juice from beetroot, grown in the kitchen gardens at their homes.
"I grow some soybean on my farm, when I harvest, I keep them and use them to make toffee or milk just in case I do not have porridge or dairy milk," she said.
"We plant orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in the kitchen garden, which are rich in Vitamin A, and when a child seems fed up with the potatoes, we learned how to make doughnuts from them, the child eats the doughnuts happily because the food was transformed into something else," she revealed.
They have a saving group of 30 named 'Twite ku Buzima'. "We save any money we have, whether it is Rwf100 or Rwf200, but it has helped us achieve much," she added.
Nsenguwera added that parents gathered at the village kitchen are encouraged to use family planning, which also works as one of the ways to prevent malnutrition in the family.
Rwamagana District Mayor Radjab Mbonyumuvunyi said that thanks to the project, the welfare of the citizens has since improved.
"I would like to tell you that now Rwamagana is the district with the fewest number of malnourished children in the country," he announced.
"I would recommend that the project continues working in our district because its results are very tangible".
The mayor added that in March 2018, they had 644 malnourshed children under-five but after various campaigns with the Ubaka-Ejo project, they had only seven children remaining on the list by May.
"Your children are beautiful; I wish them all blessings," said Sonali Korde, who is also USAID Washington Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, after visiting the residents in Nkomangwa.
"I have to say thank you for the partnership with USAID, we want to continue working with the Government of Rwanda."
She said that the visit was about "to learn about your country and the work we are doing together. I want to take these stories back to Washington."
USAID/Ubaka Ejo is implemented by AEE in the districts of Rwamagana and Kayonza in Eastern Province, and Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro in City of Kigali.
Its early programme ran from 2012 through 2016, and the current one will up to 2020.
Its officials say that uptake of pre- and antenatal care in Rwamagana has since increased, as 42,476 pregnant and lactating mothers in the district received training in nutrition and hygiene.
At least 35,409 families in the district have adopted improved hygiene practices while 2,443 were supported to construct and protect 516 water springs in order to increase access to clean water.