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Rwanda introduces monthly allowance for expectant, breastfeeding mothers

The scheme specifically seeks to help families overcome malnutrition and stunting among children. (NET PHOTO)

KIGALI – Lives of vulnerable pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are set to improve thanks to monthly stipends that are set to address varied issues of health, nutrition and extreme poverty in families.

The initiative, which was announced in January, according to New Times Rwanda, will come into effect this month, and, according to officials, by mid-February, the first disbursement will have been made.

The scheme specifically seeks to help families overcome malnutrition and stunting among children.

The target is either pregnant mothers or those in their 24 first months of breastfeeding all falling in the first category of Ubudehe stratification.

Experts argue that cognitive development happens with the first 1,000 days of the child which are very critical to avoid stunting that can be irreversible when it occurs within the same period.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA) and will run under the National Strategic for Transformation (NST1) that will end in 2024, according to Justine Gatsinzi, the division manager of social protection at LODA.

Dubbed “The Nutrition Sensitive Direct Support Scheme (NSDS),” Gatsinzi said that government has secured $23 million from World Bank to implement it.

Women, mothers or guardians benefiting from the NSDS will receive a monthly payment of Rwf7,500 but they will be getting it on a quarterly basis, meaning Rwf22,500 per quarter.

Gatsinzi said that all is set and institutions are working together to identify the right beneficiaries as well as train key players such as local leaders, health workers as well as community health workers on how successfully roll out the programme.

“We target to support pregnant mothers and mothers whose babies are below 24 months, we seek to address stunting and malnutrition issues, we should not look at stunting in the lens of agriculture products, there are also issues of how to prepare the diet while there are also hygiene issues,” he said.

He said in social protection, the money can help buy basics such as soap, clothes for babies, going for antenatal care and health checkup, and vaccination for the baby among others.

“We realised that there was need for cash transfers beyond what can be done by various stakeholders, it will also help us meet beneficiaries when there is a kind of incentive and pass on the messages to change mindset,” he said.

“Sometimes, we could ask them, say to go for antenatal care or to have their babies vaccinated or promote hygiene, and yet they lacked transport means, we hope this will help us build social contract with citizens,” he added.

The programme targets beneficiaries from 17 districts which are the most affected in stunting, malnutrition and have high prevalence of extreme poverty.

According to Dr Anita Asiimwe, the National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP) Coordinator, the scheme seeks to complement other interventions geared toward improving proper nutrition and welfare of vulnerable communities to avoid stunting.

She said that parents falling in the first category of Ubudehe have limitations, including the lack of proper feeding, which impacts negatively on the babies they are carrying even before they are born.

“Parents under the first Ubudehe category have more limitations than other parents, we said in the meantime, as we wait for them to receive support through other interventions, we can ensure their children are safe,” he said.

“And because we understand that the first 1000 days are very important in brain development which is also affected by nutrition, we understand that stunting is largely irreversible at the age of two, that is why the initiative was introduced,” he said.

She noted that parents would be accompanied and gain education to understand the importance of the ‘1,000 days’, and use the scheme and other interventions to improve diet for their babies and for themselves.

Under NST1, Asiimwe said the Government target is to reduce stunting prevalence from 38 per cent to 19 per cent.

She urged all the players, including parents, to play their respective role if the programme is to succeed and the target to be achieved.

Local leaders upbeat

Dorcella Mukashema, the vice mayor in charge of social affairs in Karongi District, New Times, a local daily that the programme was long overdue and will help the district address the issue of acute malnutrition.

“On top of fighting malnutrition and curb stunting, parents will be encouraged to go for antenatal care, have their children vaccinated and promote hygiene; the programme will not only help direct beneficiaries but also the entire district,” she was quoted saying.

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