The New Times Kigali Steven Muvunyi
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Civil Society alliances from across Africa have converged in Kigali for a 6-day meeting to learn and share experiences in the fight against malnutrition.

Organised by SUN Alliance Rwanda and SUN Civil Society Network, the meeting dubbed, « Learning Route » is running under the theme « Learning across borders for better nutrition outcomes. »

The ultimate goal of the meeting is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of attaining a world free from malnutrition by 2030.

It aims to encourage knowledge exchange between the alliances for better nutrition and food security outcomes, according to John Butera Mugabe, the chairman of SUN Alliance.

« Children below five years of age have malnutrition issues. [At least] 38 per cent face stunting while 9 per cent are underweight. That’s why we need to come together and learn from each other, » he said.

« Rwanda registered achievements that others can learn from. For instance, in breastfeeding, we are at 87 per cent. They can emulate that as well as learn from Rwanda’s political will to fight malnutrition, » he noted.

The Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, said Rwanda has a lot to learn from the meeting.

« We have made a significant progress in nutrition, mostly in breastfeeding. But we have not achieved our goals. Thus, we are ready to learn from other countries represented here, » she said.

She cited poor mentality among some citizens among the challenges that hinder the fight against malnutrition.

« We are working with other ministries through social clusters to address malnutrition, » she said.

She called upon everyone to engage in the fight against malnutrition since it affects national development.

« Those who are malnourished have no energy to work. If they don’t work, our economic development will be affected, » she said.

Richard Baguma, the Chairman of Uganda Civil Society Coalition for Nutrition, said nutrition is more than a health issue.

« It’s also a development issue that has different faces and dimensions. From what we hear, there has been progress in Rwanda in tackling malnutrition. So we are here to learn. We are also trying to share experience across the region. We have similar challenges and aspirations. So I think we can reinforce each other, » he said.

« There is need to deal with these at the national and community level, allocate money to nutrition specific interventions as well as train health workers, local leaders, among others, » he said.

Brie O’Keefe, Nutrition Manager at Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, underlined the significance of the meeting.

« It has brought different CSOs and activists together to learn from each other about what has worked in their different contexts so they can take lessons home and apply them to improve nutrition , » she said.

« There are 11 countries represented. So there must be a lot of success stories to share, » she said

Available statistics indicate that Rwanda made strides in improving nutrition, reducing under nutrition from 56 per cent to 32 per cent between 1990 and 2015.

Established in 2014, SUN Alliance Rwanda is an umbrella organisation that brings together 79 civil society organisations engaged in scaling up nutrition in the country.

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