Now I know how to cook for my 6 children to avoid malnutrition, says Imaculada from Kassuanga village in Bié, Angola
„Come to the training, we will start shortly,“ shouts Valéria, People in Need‘s Nutrition Field Officer out of the car’s window while passing by houses in Kassuanga village in the central Angolan province of Bié.
The Soba, the traditional village leader is welcoming us with smile. He knows the People in Need (PIN) team very well because it is for the fifth time it will deliver the nutrition training to the most vulnerable villagers, with the main focus on young mothers. One of the ladies is beating on a metal piece in the centre of the village between the church and school to call together all participants. Even though the village is busy with four funerals, over fourty villagers are taking part today and are soon sitting under the tree, prepared to listen to the next lesson on nutrition.
„Do you remember how to prevent malnutrition of your child? What you can do to prevent it?,“ Valéria starts the meeting. „I know how to prepare good soup for my child once it is not strong,“ says one of mothers and quickly repeats the receipt she learned on one of previous sessions. Big applause from others follows as a reward. Apart from over 20 women with small children also more than 10 men are listening. A traditional birth attendant (midwife) who is in charge of all baby deliveries in the village as well as two social mobilizers plus the Soba are also adding further practical advice.
When it is not raining, we lose our harvest
One of the participants is 30 years-old Imaculada Chicemba who came with the youngest of her 6 children. Her husband is a farmer on their small field, where they are growing maize, beans, cassava or peanuts. „Sometimes when we are planting and it does not rain we lose our harvest,“ Imaculada explains. „This year the maize is not growing very well because of the lack of rain,“ she adds. Maize is for locals very important because the maize flour is the basis for funji, one of the main essentials of the Angolan diet.
Imaculada visited almost all trainings. Cooking classes are among the most valuable for her. „I already learned how to prepare soya, beans and rehydration salt for children once they are becoming weak. I also know how to prepare soup out of pumpkins,“ she explains. „I always immediately try to do what I learned in the course. Now I am using rehydration salt for example,“ she adds.
Imaculada is now able to recognize that once their children have fever they will become weak next week. „Once something like this is happening I prepare some food and soon children are becoming stronger,“ she says. „A lot of people had problems here but since the nutrition programme started the number decreased a lot,“ she explains and adds that the biggest problem of the village now is that if the child becomes ill they must go up to Trumba to nearest health centre, which usually takes 2 hours by walking. „I wish the programme will continue in the village,“ Imaculada concludes.
All the produce needed for the new recipes we are cultivating here
The impact of the training will be much lower without social mobilizers who are volunteering in the village and visiting each household to support families. „Usually I am visiting 10 to 12 families in a week. If something is wrong I try to help the family,“ says Bernardo Avelino (46), who serves as community health agent in the village since 2008. „My motivation is to help my community, mainly children to be strong and healthy,” says Bernardo, the father of 9, who is working as a driver and is doing this function as a volunteer for free.
His wife is also participating during the trainings. “It is easy to adopt new recipes to our diet because all the ingredients we are cultivating here. I can see the improvement in the physical well-being of children here,” says Bernardo. Memory Nawandi (58) is of the same opinion and she knows something about children in the village. Memory serves as the only midwife for the whole village since 1982 and has delivered almost all the children and their mothers who are sitting here today, as well as hundreds others. She alone is mother of 4 boys and 8 girls. “The cooking lessons were new to me and very valuable even I have 35 years of experience. It is very important to teach pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding how to prevent illnesses and prepare good food for children,“ she says.
Support for 44 villages
Even the Soba Adré tries to participate in the trainings if his health allows it. „We are happy, that the programme to prevent malnutrition is realized here,“ says the Soba and reminds the moment when he received the call from township administration to support the work of PIN in the village. „The situation improved a lot since then in the village,“ says Adré and explains that the biggest problem of the village at the moment is the absence of a health centre. „Sometimes a child is ill and before we reach the nearest health centre in Trumba township it dies. We really need it closer,“ says the Soba while planning the future. „We would like to continue in the trainings after People in Need will finish its work here. I hope we can realize the courses alone,“ he concludes.
People in Need nutrition team realize the same support in 44 villages of Bié and Huambo provinces with funding from the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA) and African Innovation Foundation (AIF). „My team of six people is regularly visiting all the villages and delivers the sessions about proper breastfeeding, cooking, hygiene or other things related to nutrition,“ explains Arcádio Mendonça, PIN nutrition Team Supervisor. The activities are complemented with the work of PIN Agricultural Team which is organizing the distribution of seeds and trainings in planting in the same villages.
Leia Mussole, PIN Angola Communication Officer
Petr Stefan, PIN Communication Officer