Now I can make four different variations of my child´s porridge
It’s a one-hour drive on the paved Mongu-Kalabo road and another 30 minutes on the sand road that leads to Nalutala village where baby Nambayo and his mother Mutete Chimbwete live.
One-and-a-half year old Nambayo lives with his two siblings, his grandmother, and Mutete, 21, in Nawinda, one of the three communities in Ndoka Ward, Kalabo, where People in Need helps mothers to improve their children’s nutrition. After Nambayo, Mutete’s second born, was discovered to be underweight during a monthly growth monitoring, Mutete was invited to participate in the Positive Deviance (PD) hearth session for the community. The PD hearth session uses community-based methods to help malnourished children grow stronger with locally available foods and wisdom. Now that Nambayo is no longer underweight, Mutete wants to spread the knowledge she’s gained: “I have observed that that my child has gained a lot of weight and most importantly, I can also teach others on the how to make the different nutritious foods from our local sources.”
Community health volunteers first weigh the community’s children every month. Parents of children recorded to be underweight are later invited for a discussion with the health volunteers on how they can work together to prevent malnutrition.
PIN and the local health volunteers also identify well-nourished children in poor families who help show that community-based solutions are possible. After an initial training by PIN, the health volunteers took over and now lead the process of rehabilitating underweight children.
The parents and health volunteers meet in a group two hours daily for 12 days, usually during lunch time. They cook different kinds of nutritious meals with locally available foods. During the 12 days, the mothers and fathers learn different recipes they can use to prevent malnutrition in their kids. “I use a lot of different cooking methods for my child’s porridge,” Mutete says. She learnt different variations of porridge combining in pounded fish, green leaves, or groundnuts for better nutrition for baby Nambayo.
The sessions provide a safe place where everybody can share and teach one another things that can affect children’s growth, like diarrhea prevention through handwashing and good hygiene practices.
The children are weighed during the sessions so their parents can see how they are putting on weight. Over the course of the 12 days, the children can easily gain up to 400 g and graduate to being an adequate weight.
After the 12 days, Mutete was so happy with Nambayo’s weight gain that she become a nutrition teacher in her community. Now she cooks different nutritious recipes for her kids, and invites her neighbors to watch and taste. “I use my own food to prepare meals for my child. I also invite the whole village to taste my food, both mothers and children,” she says.
“Thanks to the cooking sessions, I have learnt a lot. Now that I know the importance of various foods for the body, and I can prepare nutritious foods for my children,” says Mutete. Through the community hearth sessions, the children of Ndoka ward now have a chance to avoid malnutrition and grow to their full potential.