THE BLOG

Rwanda - 20 Years on From the Genocide

04/04/2014 10:14 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 10:59 BST

In the immediate aftermath of the genocide it was hard for me, as a young accountant volunteering with Concern Worldwide in East Africa, to imagine that Rwanda would ever achieve the level of peace, stability and economic recovery that it has today.

On this important anniversary we should, of course, look back and remember those fateful 100 days but we must also acknowledge that the future of Rwanda rests on a generation that is being held back by hunger. The huge achievements that have been made, including the economic growth currently being experienced, is unlikely to be sustained if hunger persists at its current level.

A recent World Food Programme report stated that the effects of hunger and undernutrition in Rwanda cost the country US$820million annually - the equivalent of 11.5% of its annual GDP. This demonstrates that a lack of food goes beyond the individuals who live with the pain of hunger. The economic implication of hunger stretches across whole communities.

Currently around 44% of children under five years of age, in Rwanda, are stunted. A stunted child is a child that did not receive enough nutritious food to help their brain or body grow properly. The result is that they will perform poorly in school and their earning potential will be diminished. They will have less chance of escaping poverty. This is unnecessary and unacceptable.

To tackle what the 2013 Global Hunger Index describes as 'serious' levels of hunger in Rwanda, Concern is working at the local, national and international level.

At the local level, Concern works with extremely poor households to improve their agricultural productivity and to diversify their diet. Through the provision of seeds and livestock, alongside training on sustainable agricultural practices, people are now growing and consuming more nutritious crops and this reduces the risk of malnutrition. With people growing food on their own land they no longer have to use their limited resources on purchasing food from the market.

We realise that people with small amounts of land cannot meet their food needs through agriculture alone. In these cases livestock is provided for breeding and generating income, which in turn is used to purchase nutritious food and ultimately diversify household diet.

At the national level we are supporting the government of Rwanda's efforts to eliminate malnutrition. As part of this work, Concern supported the Ministry of Health to revise the national guidelines and policy on severe acute malnutrition to include the community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) approach. The central principle of CMAM is to treat malnourished children in their homes. As a result, it inevitably reaches more people than the traditional therapeutic feeding centres.

The government of Rwandan has further demonstrated its commitment to combatting hunger by joining the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. With 50 members, including governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers there is now an international effort to improve nutrition. This work is vital and we need the UK government to play its part.

Last year a hunger summit was held in London where global leaders committed £2.7billion to fight undernutrition. We need the UK government to continue to hold other countries accountable and ensure commitments materialise so that developing countries, like Rwanda, are properly equipped to beat malnutrition and break free of poverty.