WFP’s Nutrition Education and Counselling (NEC) initiative was introduced in refugee camps in Rwanda in the last few years, with the aim of increasing knowledge and helping refugees understand the importance of good nutrition among themselves and children in particular. Over 73,000 refugees have been trained and sensitised to adopt good feeding practices through applying practical skills such as how to prepare a balanced meal, construction of kitchen gardens, how to grow vegetables, breastfeeding and good hygiene practises.
“I used the skills I learnt to make a kitchen garden where I planted vegetables which allows my family to eat them at every meal, especially the children,” said Chantal Iribagiza, a 26-year-old mother in Nyabiheke camp. “We were taught that green leafy vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals.”
The initiative empowers refugees and provides them with the necessary skills to adopt a sustainable and healthy diet, and creates an enabling environment for autonomous food production. These vegetables supplement the fortified blended food already provided by WFP to prevent and treat malnutrition amongst children aged 6 to 59 months, as well as pregnant and breast feeding mothers in refugee camps.
Spreading nutrition messages in camps
In partnership with Plan International, WFP trained 96 nutrition animators to mobilise refugees and encourage them to adopt good nutritional habits and practices.
“I am happy about the work I do every day to educate my fellow mothers in the camp,” said Kampire Mukashyaka, one of 16 nutrition animators in Nyabiheke camp. “I spend most of my daily work walking around the camp with my colleagues, meeting breast feeding mothers and discussing how to promote healthy development in all children,” she added.
Nutrition animators in the camps are the driving force to mobilise mothers in refugee camps to attend parents’ evening meetings where nutrition messages are delivered. They also take advantage of sports events to deliver nutrition messages and good feeding practices in the refugee camps.
A combination of support
In addition to the NEC, WFP provides food assistance to over 150,000 refugees in Rwanda, either through cash based transfer or in-kind food distributions. Safety net interventions such as blanket supplementary feeding, targeted supplementary feeding and school meals are provided to the most nutritionally vulnerable refugee populations such as children under five years and pregnant and breast feeding mothers. The school feeding programme in the camps contributes substantially to the reduction of school dropout rates, in addition to the improvement of the nutrition status of the refugee children attending school.
For Chantal, who receives general food assistance from WFP through a cash based transfer, the training has had a huge impact on her family. Since starting her kitchen garden, she uses the money she would have used to buy vegetables to buy milk for her children; an item that was once considered a luxury for them. The garden is also an additional source of income as she now sells vegetables to others within the community. She is an inspiration to many of her peers.
Written by JohnPaul Sesonga,
Communications Associate, External Partnerships and Communications Section, WFP
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