Building Child Nutrition in Rwanda
Standing in her new shop in Rwamagana, located in Eastern Province, Rwanda, Laetitia Niyonsaba happily welcomes customers who come to buy food. With every item she sells, she smiles as she counts her earnings. Her three-year-old son, Daniel, hugs her when he comes home from school.
Daniel attends the local Nurturing Care Hub, that was established by the Inclusive Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Program known as Gikuriro Kuri Bose in the community. Back home, Daniel finds a ready-prepared meal including potatoes, fish, beans, fruits, and vegetables prepared by his mother. Affording such a meal hasn’t been possible for Laetitia, who was abandoned by her husband four years ago and was left with the responsibility of raising three young children by herself. She has done her best but has struggled to feed her kids.
Niyonsaba Laetitia and her son, Daniel, participate in CRS' USAID funded Inclusive Nutrition and Early Childhood Development project known as the Gikuriro Kuri Bose.
Photo by Fred Hirwa/CRS
“When my husband left me, I felt hopeless, and I thought my life was ending,” Laetitia says. “I felt lonely and would continually worry about where my children would find their next meal.”
Laetitia couldn’t afford school fees for her two older children. Daniel, who was still an infant, was deprived of basic maternal care, including regular breastfeeding and hygiene. /While Letitia was out looking for work, she left Daniel in the care of neighbors. During this time, Daniel became malnourished and despondent.
As part of Gikuriro Kuri Bose, Laetitia was encouraged by a community health volunteer to attend a Savings and Internal Lending Community, or SILC group, to which other parents belonged. SILC groups were established by Gikuriro Kuri Bose to help parents become resilient and able to afford nutritious food by accessing loans that enable them to start small income generating activities. Laetitia attended, and with her limited means, she tried her best to save 40 cents each week.
After some time, Laetitia was able to take out a $32 loan from her SILC group. Laetitia used the money to start her business, purchasing cabbage, bananas, maize and sorghum in bulk to re-sell for a higher profit.
From the first profit she made, she started renting a shop for$9 per month. From that time onward, her business has grown, and she now makes a profit of $72 a month, which has changed her life. Her children can once again eat nutritious meals.
Laetitia has since increased her savings contributions to the SILC group to 60 cents per week and now has a share of $40 in the SILC group.
“I never dreamed I would have the life I have now,” Laetitia says. “Thanks to CRS and the Gikuriro Kuri Bose project, my son is no longer malnourished, and I can focus now on how to expand my business and invest in a better future for my children.”
Laetitia is regularly visited by a trained community health worker who advises and continues to educate her on nutrition and child health to ensure Daniel doesn’t become malnourished again.
In all the villages where the project operates, parents are trained in improved nutrition, preparation of a balanced diet, stunting prevention and malnutrition among their children. They attend a village nutrition school that provides a space to learn about food preparation and rehabilitation of malnourished children.
The Inclusive Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Program, or Gikuriro Kuri Bose, is a 5-year program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve the health, functioning, nutritional status and well-being of women of reproductive age and children under age 6 years. It emphasizes the 1,000-day window that’s critical for child health, strengthens inclusion of children and adults with disabilities and improves positive parenting and child development. The program is implemented by a consortium led by Catholic Relief Services, and four consortium members that include Humanity & Inclusion, Umuhuza Organization, Three Stones International, University of Global Health Equity and four sub-partners: CARITAS Rwanda, African Evangelistic Enterprise, Young Women Christian Associationb and Duharanire Amajyambere y’Icyaro - Association for Integrated Rural Development.