Gashumba was speaking Friday, during the discussions that brought together the Ministry and partners to assess the results from ’first 1,000 days of the child’s life’ campaign. The campaign was initiated in 2013 to combat malnutrition in Rwanda.
Gashumba said that the programme aimed at improving maternal and child health in the country through key behaviors such as breastfeeding, timely initiation of complementary feeding with balanced diet for pregnant women.
She noted that the negligence of those key behaviours would result into stunting, or more severe disabilities.
“Nowadays, we have a serious issue of malnutrition where children are suffering from stunted growth. This is a result of irresponsible parents with poor mentalities," she said.
Southern and Western Province districts have the largest number of children with stunted growth.
“We still have about 38% of children with a stunting growth. This is a very serious issue, because contrary to what people think, stunting does not only affect children physically, but also it affects them mentally," Gashumba explained.
“This further implies that the child may have delayed mental development and therefore poor school performance” she added.
UNICEF Country Director, Ted Maly commended the initiative for raising knowledge about preparation of balanced diet for children below five and pregnant women from way back in 2013.
“This initiative was of great help in our objectives because the current 38% of children with stunted growth has reduced from 44% in 2010. Based on what has been done, we believe that people will change mindsets and embrace programmes leading to feeding balanced diet for children," Maly said
The recent Cabinet Meeting appointed Dr. Anita Asiimwe, the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Coordinator. ECD is expected to combat malnutrition from village level.
Gashumba said that through ECD, parents will understand their role in growth of their children through nourishing them on a well balanced diet.
"ECD will remind parents to take care on children’s growth. On the village level, poor families will be supported. We shall be able to know whether the child was nourished with well balanced diet" she added.
Gasumba is optimistic that collective efforts from different institutions would help ending malnutrition and stunting growth among children.
Photos: Moise Niyonzima