Rwanda National Police (RNP) and Rwanda Youth Volunteers in Community Policing (RYVCP) have built 223,104 organic gardens across the country in a campaign dedicated to promoting healthy diet and to fight malnutrition and stunting.
The month-long campaign supported by the National Child Development Agency (NCDA), which concluded this Monday, June 6, saw more than 100 organic gardens constructed in each of the 2148 cells across the country.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Teddy Ruyenzi, the deputy commissioner for Community Policing in RNP, said that the initiative is part of human security activities that brings together the force and members of youth volunteers to support various national development programmes.
The RYVCP with over 480,000 members across the country, is an organization of young people created in 2013 to supplement the Rwanda National Police (RNP) community policing ideology through community awareness against crimes and to support the country’s human security activities through Umuganda, environmental protection and promoting healthy living, among others.
“Stunting and malnutrition are both health and security issues, and ending it is a collective responsibility,” said ACP Ruyenzi.
Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, and underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related non-communicable diseases.
According to Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2020, childhood stunting decreased from 48 percent in the year 2000 to 33 percent. During the same period, the proportion of children underweight also declined from 20 percent to 8 percent. Childhood wasting also reduced to 1 percent from 8 percent over the same period.
Stunting is an indication of chronic under-nutrition while wasting is an indication of acute malnutrition.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2020, about 149 million children globally aged below five years were stunted (too short for age), 45 million were estimated to be wasted (too thin for height), and 38.9 million were overweight or obese.
The WHO also indicates that around 45 percent of deaths among children under five years of age are linked to undernutrition, and mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Eric Bayisenge, the executive secretary for Rwanda Youth Volunteers in Community Policing, said that fighting stunting falls under the renewed partnership with the NCDA.
“Youth volunteers was founded on the ideology of patriotism to create a selfless and responsive generation that supports the national development agenda. So, this specific campaign, which we conducted jointly with Rwanda National Police was to implement our renewed agreement with NCDA against stunting and malnutrition, child protection and to monitor Early Childhood Development centres,” Bayisenge said.
He added that some ECDs in communities are not utilized by parents and that the awareness campaign will continue to sensitize parents on the importance of the centres, which provide children with holistic access to early learning, good nutrition, hygiene and protection.
Adeline Ufitinema, the food and nutrition specialist at NCDA, said that kitchen gardens provide foods rich in minerals and vitamins such as VitA in cabbage, carrots, broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens or vegetables complementing the other available food at households level to make a healthy balanced diet.
“Kitchen garden provides diverse fresh fruits and vegetables addressing the agricultural role in improving nutritional outcomes at household level through own production and own consumption. They are easy to construct and maintain in the backyard, and in case of surplus, they can be as well be the source of income when sold to buy other nutritious foods,” Ufitinema said.
To ensure a healthy growth of a child, medics recommend that maternal and infant feeding starts from the conception until 2 years of age to prevent stunting; early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding from birth through the first six months.
They further recommend consumption of iron supplements by pregnant women, dietary diversity for women with emphasis on food sources of iron and foods that enhance iron absorption; dietary diversity for children 6–23 months, with emphasis on food sources of iron and vitamin A and foods that enhance iron absorption; and optimal meal frequency for children 6–23 months of age.