Proper feeding and stunting reduction amidst COVID-19 Lockdown- A personal Perspective

15 Apr 2020
By Rwibasira Eugene

The outbreak of the disastrous Corona virus (COVID-19) is affecting the world’s economy in general and the people in Particular. So many cases and death have been registered and nobody knows how soon it will end. In this regard, on Saturday 21st March 2020, the Government of Rwanda announced a two-week total lockdown which was extended to 19th April in a bid to curtail the spread of corona virus. This has led to banning unnecessary movement of residents within cities and between districts and stopping all other economic activities except for food, medicine and sanitary equipment sales. During this period, everyone strives to secure his/her life as everyone scrambles for protective devices and food for survival. In this situation, the choice of food does not cater for the breast-feeding and pregnant mothers as well as children under 5 years.

While prices of the food items on the market have speculatively gone high, there are many people who were surviving on daily earnings. These include but are not limited to casual labourers, motorcycle tax riders, transporting cyclists, public transport drivers and vendors. Today, they find it hard to buy food items to feed their families. Government and other agencies as well as individuals have tried to support families at the lower end of the economy to survive during this period. However, what is being provided for is neither sufficient in quantity nor able to cover the nutrient value the family requires. It is just considered enough to keep the family going for some days.

People’s minds are now focused on survival with little concern of post-Covid-19 effects in terms of stunting. Amidst such cocktail of challenges, Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO) is calling on other CSOs, religious denominations, Government and other Development partners to step up efforts to ensure emergency food supply to the needy, enhance nutritional campaign to prevent undernourishment and consequent stunting and remind the general public that today and tomorrow demands the wellbeing of our children and mothers (both lactating and pregnant). Therefore, the current efforts should consider, balancing our feeding albeit the food scarcity and affordability and hence balance should be made between consumed food and nutritional body requirements.

We have been advised to be sensitive to hygiene as well as keeping our immune systems strong to effectively reduce the risk of acute COVID-19 infection. This requires eating healthy and nutritious food, exercising, managing stress and enough sleep. On the contrary, we continue to see a lot of news (some fake) especially on social media that threatens and instills fear among people creating stress and less sleep. This together with dietary deficiencies mostly among the most vulnerable puts them at great risk of acute infection. RDO in partnership with SNV plans to work together with the media fraternity to change the narrative and give messages of hope that include nutrition enhancement messages during this COVID-19 lockdown.

During the Lock-down, media fraternity is requested to work closely with Government, CSOs and other development partners to make  documentaries, aired on TVs, radios and social media like YouTube showing how one can prepare well balanced diet with the available food stuff  that can be afforded by the majority of Rwandans during this period. It would also depict the feeding patterns during the lock down to meet the body nutrient requirements among the pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and young children to avert stunting in the future.

The COVID-19 trajectory is uncertain. The post COVID-19 economic and livelihood impact may be very devastating and is likely to exacerbate the current food shortages that have led to the current 35% stunting figures in Rwanda. It is not a one-man-show but rather a struggle for everyone to prepare for possible food and nutrition insecurity especially for the vulnerable groups earlier mentioned. Therefore, as we strive to keep at home and safe, we should not compromise the future at the expense of the struggle to survive today.

TOGETHER WE CAN.

Stay Home, Stay safe!!
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