Tackling Stunting: An Unfinished Agenda
KIGALI, June 21, 2018--Rwanda’s annual growth reached 6.1% in the second half of 2017, thanks to improved export performance, revitalized agriculture and resumption of growth in private consumption, according to the 12th edition of the World Bank Rwanda Economic Update launched today. The growth is expected to accelerate to 7.2% in 2018 and to 7.5% in 2019.
“Although growth remains below its historical average, for the second year in a row net exports contributed to growth, suggesting that recent growth has become more balanced,” said Aghassi Mkrtchyan, World Bank Senior Economist.
According to the report, favorable weather experienced in 2017 brought a substantial pick-up in agriculture, and growth in services accelerated to 8%. However, industrial growth slowed mainly because construction continued to contract. Headline inflation went down to 0.7% by December 2017 after peaking at 8% in February, while exchange rate remained relatively stable during the same period.
In a special section, Tackling Stunting: An Unfinished Agenda, the Rwanda Economic Update takes stock of trends in meeting Millennium[ES1] Development Goals’ health targets and efforts deployed to eliminate the underlying causes of the chronic malnutrition or stunting.
Although chronic malnutrition or stunting has declined from about 50% (2005) to 38% (2014/2015) of children under 5, it remains a major challenge. Stunting rates are highest among the poorest households and those living in rural areas (50%).
However, over the past 15 years, the report noted encouraging trends in many of the underlying causes of malnutrition—care practices, environmental health, food adequacy—but gaps persist. The most significant improvements occurred in care practices, such as coverage of antenatal, facility delivery, and postnatal practices with gaps narrowing for all wealth quintiles.
“Rwanda has a unique opportunity to create a positive virtuous cycle of producing a generation of well-nourished children who grow, thrive, and reach their full potential, contribute to human capital development, and contribute to future economic growth,” said Miriam Schneidman, Lead Health Specialist and World Bank’s Task Team Leader.
In line with the 2018–24 National Health Sector Strategic Plan, authorities have set a bold target for all districts to decrease a stunting rate to 19% by 2024. To succeed in this endeavor, the Rwanda Economic Update makes several policy recommendations:
- Rwanda needs to adopt a pro-poor approach, targeting the poorest children under 2 years of age during the critical 1,000-day development window; beyond which stunting is largely irreversible.
- Mobilizing parents, mayors, and policymakers is critical to strengthen their ownership of the stunting reduction agenda.
- Expanding domestic financing, better aligning resources to results, and improving tracking of all spending on stunting by all sectors.
- Generating evidence about what works and how it can be scaled up.