A senate report has discovered gaps in children’s milk distribution in the Early Childhood Development Programme (ECDP) which could be the reason being of high percentage of stunting in Rwanda.
This nutrition program under ECDP commonly known as Shisha Kibondo was designed to address issue of child stunting among children aged 6-23 months in rural areas with distribution of milk and fortified foods to children and their mothers.
Two years ago, Rwanda had a stunting level of 38% and the government had targeted to reduce the levels to at least 18% by 2024. However, current figures show stunting standing 33% and only reduced by 5%.
This is partly attributed to the poor implementation of the ECDP program.
Last year the Office of the Ombudsman of Rwanda, presented to the Chamber of Deputies findings in the program which showed that the program was not well managed.
For example, the milk and porridge was allegedly given to nurses instead of the beneficiaries .
While assessing the Ombudsman’s 2020-2021 activity report on the program early this week, the Committee on Political Affairs and Governance found that milk packaging and distribution remains a problem.
Committee Chairperson, Lambert Dushimimana said that this was a result of lack of compliance with the set guidelines, and is impeding the attainment of their intended goals to improve child nutrition.
For instance, senators found that the packaged milk expires before dates of distribution as a result of local distribution teams not supplying the milk on time.
The problem we found out is that the milk is stored for a long time and it ends up being spoilt before being distributed to beneficiaries,” Sen. Dushimimana said.
He also showed that the milk packaging bags are of poor standard.
However, Senator Juvenal Nkusi asked if the suppliers, the Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) and Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (FDA-Rwanda) monitor the required standards before being used in the program.
“Is it possible that the FDA and Standards Bureau don’t test the durability of these packaging?” Nkusi asked.
Sen. Dushimimana responded that the above institutions screen the milk packaging material but the problem remains in delayed distribution, a weak point that calls for finding long-lasting packaging material.
The problem is in delayed distribution thus overstaying in stocks. This is sometimes caused by unavoidable reasons among suppliers but if there is a way we can have long-lasting packaging material, this can be solved,” Dushimimana said.
Senate resolved on having an in-depth inquiry into issues hindering the implementation of the ECDP program and especially the causes of the delayed distribution.
Though the report showed an increase in milk supplied in health centers in fiscal years – 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 – and that the funding allocated to this initiative more than doubled to Rwf5.9 billion in 2019-2020 from over Rwf2.8 billion, lawmakers have continued to push leaders to address the issue of stunting as soon as possible.
This has seen the Chamber of Deputies, last week, taking a decision to summon six ministries of Justice, Gender and Family promotion, Education, Health, Local government, Agriculture, and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) over the gaps in attaining nutrition targets.
Parliament recommended offering each ministry up to six months (effective February 10) to present to the Chamber of Deputies their practical plans of addressing the issue of stunting.