On Thursday 30th and Friday 31st May the situation of children’s rights in Rwanda has been reviewed by the CRC Committee at its 63rd session, where the question of breastfeeding has arisen.
IBFAN has submitted an alternative report on the situation of infant and young child feeding in Rwanda. The report notes that there are no baby-friendly hospitals; there is no legislative measure that implements the Code in Rwanda, only a draft measure; the policy on children’s health defines breastfeeding as a duty of mothers, putting the burden on women, and putting them in a vulnerable position and that the duration of maternity leave is short, only 12 weeks, and starting from the second 6 week mothers are entitled to receive only 20% of the salary. In addition, maternity benefits are paid for by the employer, which may result in employers discriminatory employment practices against women.
During the CRC session, the Rwandan delegation reported efforts to educate parents on breastfeeding and train pregnant women during the prenatal and postnatal period, in addition to campaigns on food production that is appropriate for young children.
It further explained that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the practice followed in Rwanda. After a Committee member clarified that for the first 6 months of a baby’s life exclusive breastfeeding is the best feeding practice and that no other milk should be given, the Rwandan delegation added that soy milk is given as a complementary feeding after the first 6 months of age to combat child malnourishment.
The situation of BFHi has been briefly touched upon by a Committee member in the context of Rwanda’s Early Childhood Development Policy but the Country delegation did not elaborate on that.
More broadly on reduction of malnutrition, the delegation provided information on efforts to combat the problem through a national program for elimination of malnutrition. It also reported a 2009 screening program that reached each child in all villages where malnutrition is an issue. The screening program has been followed by an emergency program to accelerate the elimination of malnutrition. Other interventions include information on how to prepare local foods, economic empowerment of families, home gardens and kitchens for villages.
Other questions pertained to education, children with disabilities, leisure time and recreation, refugee law, mechanisms to tackle violence against children, discrimination of minorities, child labour, juvenile justice and adolescent reproductive health.