Donatile Mukansanga, a farmer and mother of six has two who are stunted. Not because she lacks nutritious food for them but rather she prefers to sell most of the little she has because she needs cash.
But her story is shared by many rural families in Rwanda whose children are stunted because they do not provide their children a balanced diet and opting to sell their farm produce.
Part of it is limited awareness about the importance of a balanced diet as well as ignorance about the adverse impact of stunting.
According to the latest Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey, 2019-2020, 33.3 percent of children aged under five years have stunted growth.
“A child is considered stunted when the weight-for-length/Height Z-score (WHZ) is negative 3 when compared with children that are not stunted.
Also, it is irreversible after a child surpasses two years. Stunting affects a child both physically and mentally, ” Yvonne Bamurange, a nutritionist at Remera healthcare center, told Rwanda Today.
While the government has programmes to increase awareness on feeding and prevention of stunting, these are not sufficient.
According to Rajat Madhok, the Chief Communication Advocacy and Partnerships at Unicef Rwanda, part of the challenge is poor feeding practices and limited awareness, meaning sensitisation is needed to change mindsets.
However, part of the challenge is also food insecurity for it is important to ensure diversity of foods, he said.
“...meals should be balanced, with at least five groups of foods taking into consideration body builders, energy foods, and those rich in vitamins and minerals to boost immunity and prevent disease…” said Madhok.
He added: “The frequency of meals needed for instance for a child aged between six and 23 months is at least 2-4 meals every day, depending on the age in months of the child. The quantity of the meal is also important, but parents must continue with complementarity breastfeeding until a child attains at least two years and, finally, maximise hygiene during preparation of meal and while feeding the child.”