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Part One: What Should Be Rwanda’s Top Priorities In 2019?

This is the begining of a serialised breakdown of what we believe will be Rwanda’s top priorities in 2019.

The assessment, on several issues of national interest, will be guided by what appeared to have beeen pressing issues for the ordinary Rwanda and what dominated government discussions throughout 2018.

Our first pick is malnutrion.

Malnutrition is one of Africa’s tormenting problems. Rwanda is one of the countries grappling with the problem.

However, numbers indicate that Rwanda, compared to other countries on the continent, performs reasonably better in fighting malnutrition.

But on the grand scheme of things, the country still faces an acute level of malnutrition and stunting.

The performance of nine countries as indicated by the Global Nutrition Report of 2017 in the East and Southern Africa on four indicators, score an average 37.6% on stunting.

Individually, Kenya scored 26%, Madagascar 49.2%, and others are in between the range while Rwanda scored 37.9%; a figure that does not paint a good picture at all.

The status is not only alarming, but also cripples the aspirations and potential human power of the country’s future generation.

The only fair score for Rwanda amongst all the nine countries was wastage, at only 2.2% compared to South Sudan, which is at 22.7% while the average of the region is 6.5%.

Malnutrition and stunting has been a subject of discussion in Rwanda for years, from way back in 2000 when most areas of the countries were painted red.

Infact, in the past two National Dialogues (Umushyikirano) and National Leadership Retreats, the subject kept appearing and made it to the list of resolutions.

In 2018 resolutions, it was agreed that in 2019, there must be coordination in planning and implementation, in all the relevant institutions, to fast-track elimination of malnutrition and stunting among children.

Here is the good news: President Kagame has made commitments that this is an issue that has to be addressed by all means possible.

What does that mean? Players in the implementation plan have to consider the following elements.

One, increased budget for nutrition, swcondly, more engagement with all stakeholders, and then mobilising the population to play its part.

On budgeting, there is need for a great wedge on the nutrition budget allocation.
There is a disturbing incongruity in fiscal budgeting.

The year 2017/2018 allocated only 2.35% of the total budget to nutrition.

In real terms, it means that out of the Rwf2.1 trillion total budget for 2017/2018 and after budget revision, only Rwf4.9 billion was allocated to nutrition.

The allocation to nutrition for the fiscal year 2018/2019 which is of a total of Rwf2.4 trillion was increased to about 11%, that is approximately Rwf211 billion, an indication that commitments to curb nutrition and stunting is beginning to attract the needed attention.

The Global Nutrition Study found out that the highest allocation to nutrition in the nine countries of the mentioned regions was Malawi in 2015 at 0.58% and a regional average of 0.45%.

Clearly Rwanda has performed well in budgetary allocation, despite the fact that the problem is gigantic and has persisted overtime, thus requiring increased allocation of resources and narrowed-down action.

On engaging various actors, already a pool of them are in place and playing a vital role, such as international partners, NGOs and civil society organizations the likes of SUN Alliance Rwanda.

SUN Alliance Rwanda is an the umbrella of Civil Society Organisation involved in nutrition.

It has seen increased membership from 78 to 103, who are playing an important role of awareness on the malnutrition status in the country and how to adequately finance nutrition to end malnutrition and stunting.

In fact, according to Venuste Muhamyankaka, the Executive Director of Sun Alliance, the increase in budgetary allocation to nutrition in the national budget 2017/18-2018/2019 considered the efforts of the civil society and partners.

Having an increase of 8.65% from year 2017/18 to 11% in 2018/2019 is one of the tremendous budget increases that had not happened in the social sector of our budget, says Muhamyankaka.

“Despite that we do still have a long way to go in curbing malnutrition and stunting in Rwanda, by this trend of budget allocation to nutrition and various efforts from different actors, the trend is so much encouraging, positive and inspiring,” he told Taarifa on Sunday evening.

“If the national budget can keep this commitment for only five years consecutive in terms of budget allocation, stunting and malnutrion can become a history in Rwanda,” he said.

What will be done in 2019 remains a prerogative of government.

The rest will be the role of families, but at least actions to deal with the problem must be undertaken nevertheless.

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