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Rwanda launches Multiple Micronutrient Program to improve maternal and infant health

Rwanda launches Multiple Micronutrient Program to improve maternal and infant health

RWANDA—The Government of Rwanda, in conjunction with the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) and UNICEF, has launched the Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation (MMS) program for pregnant women.

This initiative is a vital component of the Antenatal Care (ANC) programme and aims to address the serious issue of malnutrition in the Kabaya Health Centre in the Ngororero District.

In resource-constrained populations that rely primarily on cereals, key micronutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin A are deficient, harming maternal and newborn health.

Despite tremendous advances, stunting affects 33% of children under the age of five, while anaemia affects 13% of reproductive women and 25% of pregnant women.

There has also been low birthweight at 2.7%, neonatal death at 17.5%, and the maternal mortality rate of 203 per 100,000 births, which remains a severe public health concern.

Recognizing the critical significance of adequate maternal nutrition in breaking the cycle of undernutrition, the Rwanda Ministry of Health, RBC, and UNICEF are collaborating to create a comprehensive maternal nutrition plan, which includes the MMS project.

Introducing MMS will interrupt the intergenerational cycle of nutritional difficulties, which has resulted in a 12% reduction in infants born with low birth weight and a 4-8% decrease in preterm births.

It will also decrease the number of small for gestational age newborns by 3–8%, stillbirths by 5%, and total 6-month infant mortality by 7%.

Julianna Lindsey, UNICEF Rwanda Country Representative, expressed pleasure for UNICEF’s participation in the MMS launch, adding that this critical program is dedicated to improving the health and nutrition of Rwanda’s pregnant women, mothers, and children.

She went on to say that promoting strong maternal nutrition is critical to ending the cycle of undernutrition and ensuring the long-term health of moms and their children.

She highlighted the commitment to laying the groundwork for maternal and child health and nutrition, paving the way for a brighter future in Rwanda.

Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Minister of Health, on his part , stated that the newly introduced MMS has 15 essential nutrients, which is a significant increase over the prior formulation, that had only two nutrients.

He further explained that  the supplement is given to mothers who are at high risk of nutrient loss as part of a larger plan to avoid maternal malnutrition and infant stunting.

The Governor of Western Province, Lambert Dushimimana, highlighted that stunting is a problem affecting the cognitive ability and energy levels of the country’s children.

He stated that the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey of 2020 revealed a decrease in the province’s stunting rate from 45 to 40%, a favourable trend he attributed to collaborative efforts with parents, community health workers, and leaders.

According to him, the launch of the Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation Programme is a critical step in reducing future instances of stunting in Rwanda, in line with the country’s strategic goal.

Dushimimana also stressed on the significance of raising awareness and changing individuals’ mentality, asking parents to use MMS medications on time to successfully treat the issue.

This programme will be conducted in seven Rwandan districts with high rates of stunting and maternal and infant death.

Rwanda now is the third African nation to implement MMS with the backing of UNICEF, highlighting the country’s commitment to addressing the issue of stunting and reducing it from 33% to less than 19% by the year 2025.

The programme’s expected objectives include better maternal nutrition, less anaemia, low birth weight, preterm deliveries, small-for-gestational-age newborns, infant mortality, and stillbirths.

The Maternal Nutrition and MMS Initiation project will highlight the importance of maternal nutrition, MMS consumption, and early prenatal care, in line with the overarching goal of reducing stunting interventions during a child’s first 1000 days of life.

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