By David Himbara
On August 9, 2018, President Paul Kagame made an extraordinary statement on child malnutrition in Rwanda:
”Most of our children are malnourished not because we don’t have nutritious food to give them but due to the fact that there is no one on their side to follow-up.”
Kagame is right. Rwanda’s malnutrition rate is so bad. It is the highest in the region
In its paper Tackling Stunting: An Unfinished Agenda issued in June 2018, The World Bank explained:
”Stunting is more prevalent in Rwanda at 38 percent than in neighboring countries, such as Tanzania (34.4 percent) and Uganda: (33.4 percent), and in countries at a similar socio-economic level, such as Zimbabwe (26.8 percent), and double the level of countries that have introduced major programs to tackle child undernutrition, such as Senegal (18.7 percent).”
Why is this? Kagame has neglected rural development which is where 83% of Rwandans live. This has direct impact on family incomes. Rwandan children are therefore trapped into poverty and malnutrition.
According to the 2014 Rwandan Thematic Report Population size, structure and distribution, 83 percent of Rwandans live in rural areas. By all indications, the rural areas are neglected.
Take for example the basic transport infrastructure. A 2018 World Bank report says of infrastructure in rural Rwanda:
”Some 3.9 million people in Rwanda — over half the rural population — remain unconnected to good transport infrastructure by this measure. In more remote areas of Rwanda, the majority of people have to walk farther than 2 km to access a good road.”
In other words, even where subsistence farmers produce a surplus from agriculture, and could raise family incomes, what they produce can’t get to markets. Transport infrastructure is in shambles.
Energy poverty is rampant especially in rural Rwanda
Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) provides the following electricity access rates in Rwanda’s districts as of December 2017. In particular, RURA’s shows electricity subscribers connected to the national grid by provinces.
- Kigali City — 29 percent
- Eastern Province — 22 percent
- Western Province — 20 percent
- Southern Province — 16 percent
- Northern Province — 13 percent
As of December 2017, the total number of on-grid subscribers in Rwanda numbered 718,311 — versus off-grid customers at 162,154. This is a country of 12 Million.
Kagame spoke the truth for once but the spotlight is on him
Kagame spoke the truth for once. As he stated, most Rwandan children are malnourished. And indeed, as he admitted, child malnutrition is ”due to the fact that there is no one on their side to follow-up.” Kagame should look in the mirror and he will see the man responsible for this. While he regularly boasts that he has transformed Rwanda into the Singapore of Africa, the country has the highest rate of child malnutrition in the region. Kagame’s Singapore is the capital city of Kigali. He has neglected rural Rwanda. Kagame can’t escape this history — it is he who has run Rwanda with an iron fist for the past 24 years.