Rwanda: Igikoni Cy’umudugudu – How cooking together helps mothers fight child malnutrition – Advice Eating

It is an overcast Friday morning in Kamuvunyi village in Nemba sector of Gakenke district where more than 50 mothers have gathered in one place to prepare a meal together for their children under 5 years old.

Groceries of various kinds are available – including Irish potatoes, beans, eggs, fruit, vegetables, which are contributed by the ladies from their homes.

The children play under the supervision of their parents while they wait for the food to be ready.

Breakfast is soon ready to be served – nutritious porridge, after which the mothers start preparing lunch – a balanced diet of vegetables, potatoes, silverfish and eggs, accompanied by some fruit.

Through Igikoni cy’umudugudu initiative. Parents bring their children together during this activity, which takes place twice a month in different parts of Rwanda. Craish Bahizi

This is the “Igikoni cy’umudugudu”, an activity that takes place twice a month in different parts of Rwanda. The aim is to teach women the importance of proper nutrition for children.

“When we gather here, we not only prepare the children’s food, but also carry out other important activities, such as measuring their height and weight to assess their physical growth progress,” says Francoise Mukazayire, Mother of a tack for the activity.

We learn and encourage each other to always make sure we’re preparing a balanced diet for our children, she says, adding that a balanced diet should include vitamins, protein and carbohydrates.

“That’s what we’re learning here,” she adds.

Prepetue Niyigena, a first-time mother, commends the exercise for the role she played in imparting her knowledge of how to care for her child.

“As a first-time mom, I didn’t know much about how to take care of my child, for example, in terms of nutrition. However, when I was pregnant, I was recommended to attend this exercise, which taught me a lot about breastfeeding as well as other ways of caring for my baby,” she says.

A community health worker explains to parents how to prepare a balanced diet of vegetables, potatoes, silverfish and eggs along with some fruit.

The activity is always attended by Community Health Workers (CHWs) who give the mothers tips on proper nutrition.

“We tell them that there are three parts to a balanced diet: vitamins, protein and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be obtained from foods like potatoes and cornmeal, proteins from animal products like milk, eggs, silverfish, and vitamins from fruits like tree tomatoes, passion fruit, and vegetables,” says Elizabeth Uwimana, a CHW.

The mothers also receive tips on other good practices for their health and that of their children, such as maintaining hygiene in daily life.

Clementine Muhawenimana, another mother who attends the Igikoni cy’umudugudu, has learned not to take hygiene for granted, noting that “a balanced diet starts with good hygiene.”

According to statistics from the Demographic Health Survey (DHS), the level of stunting in children in Gakenke District has declined to 39 percent from 63.9 percent in 2010.

According to Jean Marie Vianney Nizeyimana, the district mayor, more efforts are being made to educate parents about the importance of feeding their children to further combat stunting.