Two months ago Agnes Ingabire faced a stunting issue with her three year old child but little did she had herself to blame.
Ingabire only knew the case of her child was suffering lack of proper diet when she sought help from Early childhood Development Center (ECD) in Karama village, Gahondo cell, Busesamana sector of Nyanza district.
“I used to feed her with sweet potatoes and porridge before rushing to farms,” Ingabire says.
“My child was weighing 14kgs instead of 18kgs for a normal child at that age.”
Ingabire said that she was advised to take her child to the nearest community ECD for immediate nutrition attention.
ECDs are established under the Stunting Prevention and Reduction Project (SPRP) helping to reduce malnutrition- a project supported by the World Bank from 2018 to 2023.
The project is implemented by Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) in collaboration with National Child Development Agency, and local authorities. It aims to end stunting and malnutrition in the country.
ECDS are in three types: Home-based, Community and Private ECDs where children below five and parents receive services such as hygiene, nutrition, basic education, positive parenting, child protection, and health screening.
At Karama home-based ECD, her child was attended to by health volunteers, fed with balanced diet and given literacy education to spark her mental capacity.
Today, the child has upgraded her weight, now at 16kgs and this has brought hope for Ingabire.
She is one of many mothers with stunted children due to poor feeding (malnutrition) countrywide.
“My child has suffered from stunting because I didn’t pay attention to required infant diet. I took it for granted until I learnt proper feeding from parenting sessions at ECD,” Ingabire said.
Ruth Uwibogoye, community health volunteer at Karama ECD says that if it was not for the ECD program being brought closer to the community many children would be in the same situation as Ingabire’s.
“The food we prepare here at ECD is available in homes but women don’t know how to prepare a balanced meal,” Uwibogoye said.
ECDs Nutrition Sustainability
Uwibogoye says that some families cannot afford balanced diets due to lack of incomes, however at the community level each family is required to bring what they can afford or raise a contribution of Rwf200 to Rwf500 per month.
This money and food is pooled for children’s feeding needs.
However, Uwibogoye said they have separate savings scheme where every mother contributes Rwf1000 per week aimed to raise capital for income generating projects.
To ensure that this program is sustainable and community driven, Nyanza district set up a community ECD food basket in 2019 where all cell levels are required to contribute 50kgs of their harvest per month.
“We have seen an increase in food supply and in cases where individuals cannot provide food they contribute money to the pool. This has guaranteed consistent supply of food at the 500 ECDs in the district,” Mayor of Nyanza, Erasme Ntazinda said.
Such an initiative comes as a lasting solution to an issue raised by parliament indicating that some districts only received 50% of fortified food supplies offered by the government to ECDs across the country.