Rwanda: Ombudsman Exposes Malpractices in Pro-Poor Nutrition Programme

21 October 2021

The Office of the Ombudsman has exposed cases where relatively well to do families benefit from free meals meant to tackle malnutrition in poor families.

The revelations are contained in the Ombudsman's report for the financial year 2020/2021, which has exposed flaws in the Shisha Kibondo programme-designed to tackle stunting among children aged 6-23 months.

The programme also caters for pregnant and breastfeeding poor women through access to fortified blended food - used to make highly nutritious porridge.

Ombudsman, Madeleine Nirere, presented the report to both Chambers of Parliament on Wednesday.

Nirere said while the targeted beneficiaries are the most vulnerable people in the first Ubudehe category, countrywide, or the second Ubudehe category in 13 districts that have the highest poverty levels - it's mismanagement.

"There are cases where we realised that Shisha Kibondo is benefiting people who do not deserve it," she said, citing traders and teachers.

MP Veneranda Uwamariya expressed her pity, commending Ombudsman for exposing the mess in the programme.

Senator Lambert Dushiminana too commended the Ombudsman's efforts but questioned her recommendation to change the guidelines that govern the programme.

"What should change in those guidelines so that the milk is not provided to public servants?" he asked

Nirere said there was a mismatch between some people's income levels and their category of Ubudehe.

"There are traders, teachers and police officers who are in the category eligible for the support - first or second category, yet it is intended for the most vulnerable people," she said. "Administrative decisions can be taken so that some people get removed from the list of the beneficiaries through correcting their Ubudehe categorisation."

Meanwhile, she said that another issue was observed where for families having many children, the milk is shared among them, yet it is intended for consumption by those under two years of age.

"This situation necessitates sensitisation to ensure that the families understand the Shisha Kibondo meal is meant to benefit the [nutrition and growth] of toddlers at risk of malnutrition or stunting," she said.

The cereal-based nutritious food product, called 'Shisha Kibondo,' has two types; one designed for children - Shisha Kibondo infant - and the other for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers - Shisha Kibondo mother.

Ubudehe programme is a socio-economic initiative where Rwandans are classified based on their economic status.

Government figures suggest that around 100,000 children, pregnant and breastfeeding women receive the Shisha Kibondo support per year.

According to the 2018 food security and vulnerability analysis, more children from 6 to 23 months from Ubudehe 1 were enrolled on the Shisha Kibondo programme to achieve the minimum acceptable diet than children from the same category who are not enrolled.

Moreover, the study indicated, it was observed that children 12-23 months consuming fortified foods are significantly less stunted.

Particularly, for children aged 18-23 months, the consumption of FBF decreases the prevalence of stunting from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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