Category Archives: Food Security

Turkana Children in Kenya Continue to Suffer Malnutrition Amid Poor Health Services

Last week, I travelled from the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya, to Turkana County which is in the northern part of the country. Turkana is a largely pastoralist community with a population of 855,000 people. The county faces major problems, chief among them recurring droughts which has for years crippled the county’s economic development.

The lack of adequate rainfall continues to be a source of conflict for Turkana and her neighbours –the Pokot community, as well as the neighbouring countries of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia as they fight for the scarce resources of water and grazing pasture. With the main economic activity being livestock farming, cattle raids are a frequent occurrence in Turkana, which is classified as a High Hazard Probability (HHP) of food, conflict and drought.

Continue reading Turkana Children in Kenya Continue to Suffer Malnutrition Amid Poor Health Services

805 Million People Still Remain Malnourished According to New Report

The State of Food Insecurity in the World report, a collaborative report from Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and International Fund for Agricultural Development, was released Tuesday. According to its topline data, there are now 805 million people around the world who are chronically malnourished; that is a steady decline of 100 million people over the last decade. Undernourishment has fallen from 23.4 percent to 13.5 percent in developing countries.

The good news is Millennium Development Goal 1.C (halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger) is within reach according to the report as 63 countries have already reached MDG 1.C. Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded the greatest progress said the report. In sub-Sahraran Africa, 1 in 4 people is chronically hungry. The most chronically malnourished live in developing countries.

graphchart
Brazil is touted in the report as achieving not only MDG 1.C, but also the more difficult to achieve WFS (World Food Summit) target that calls for reducing by half the absolute number of hungry people in a country. Juxtapose that with Haiti where over half of its citizens is chronically hungry.

The stark disparity between developed and developing countries is shown in the numbers. Between 2012 – 2014, there were 14.6 million undernourished people. Compare that to 790.7 undernourished people in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa there are 214.1 million undernourished and 504.6 million in Asia and the Pacific. However, Asia and the Pacific reduced hunger by nearly 10 percent more than sub-Saharan Africa over the same time.

During the July 2014  African Union meeting in Malabo, African leaders pledged to fully end hunger on the continent by 2015. That will take significant increases in agricultural outputs, funding, and political will.

Africans, however, are speaking up and expressing that the agriculture techniques that have been successful in the west aren’t necessarily adaptable to Africa. Ruth Oniang’o, the founder of Rural Outreach Africa, for example, believes that creating better food yields in Africa means understanding the African context. Oniang’o also believes that Africans can best teach other Africans about best farming practices and techniques because the farmers know they aren’t going anywhere.

“The farmers know us and they know of us. We make them our friends, and they know we are not going anywhere,” she says. “It’s not just a question of money. It’s working with you to make better use of what you have at the ground level, and just being able to appreciate and maintain dignity.”

While significant progress has been made to reduce global hunger, there are still hundreds of millions of the poor who don’t eat enough each day. One in nine people in mainly low- and middle-income countries are chronically undernourished.

Read the State of Food Insecurity in the World

Introducing Our Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Correspondents

As our work continues to expand globally especially as the MDG deadline nears in 2015 we want to ensure that international voices are the cornerstone of our coverage of maternal, newborn, and child health worldwide. We are beginning with three correspondents: Winfred Ogdom, a nutritionist from Uganda, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a motherhood blogger and journalist from Nairobi, Kenya, and Midwives from Haiti, a NGO that is fighting maternal and infant mortality in Haiti, the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere to be a mother, baby, or child under 5.

If you would like to be a correspondent, please email us at info@mombloggersforsocialgood.com for more information.

HAITI

LogoNewVertMidwives For Haiti is fighting maternal and infant mortality in Haiti, the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere to be a mother, baby, or child under 5. We deliver culturally appropriate, high impact health interventions to increase access to quality maternal care.  Our projects- which include Skilled Birth Attendant training, a Mobile Prenatal Clinic, a Postnatal Care Clinic, staffing and supporting a maternity ward, and training traditional birth attendants in our Matròn Outreach Program- educate and empower Haitian men and women to improve the health of their communities, creating lasting change for our graduates and the lives of the mothers and children they care for.


 

KENYA 

Maryanne_Waweru pptMaryanne Waweru-Wanyama is a motherhood blogger from Nairobi, Kenya. She tells her motherhood stories on her blog mummytales.com where she also incorporates the experiences of other Kenyan mothers. On her blog, Maryanne provides education on pregnancy, birth, delivery and infant and child care and nutrition. Maryanne is a journalist with over fourteen years experience and who has written, and still writes for various publications in Kenya including: the Daily Nation newspaper, the Star newspaper, the Standard newspaper, Parents Magazine, Healthy Woman Magazine, Healthy Child Magazine and many other publications. Her area of specialty is human interest features, maternal and child health articles. Maryanne is married with two sons.


 

UGANDA

Winfred Ongom Winfred Ongom is a 23-year-old Ugandan Nutritionist acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics this year in December. She has a lot of interest in making the world a better place using her standards of humanity and care. And this has given her exposure on issues of maternal and child health and their importance in development.

Winfred advocates for children, young people and mothers. Currently, she is using social media to inform and educate people on the challenges being faced by young people and mothers. Winfred stresses the need to step up maternal and child health so the world can be a better place for everyone.

Winfred Ongom 1

 

 Featured photo courtesy of Midwives for Haiti.

Logistics Team Visits South Sudan to Assess Road Conditions Amid Looming Famine

Last month, a United Nations team travelled to Western Equitoria,  Central Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal in South Sudan to assess road conditions, an important task when famine looms in a region that is mostly agrarian. Without passable roads it is impossible for lifesaving, critical health supplies, health workers, aid agencies,  and most importantly food to reach remote areas that are cut off from main city centers especially during the rainy season and when the need is most critical for vulnerable populations.

Aid agencies including UNICEF, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the World Food Program have warned the world that a famine is quickly nearing in South Sudan amid continued failed peace talks and violence. Famine is an extremely strong word  to use when it comes to food insecurity and no one wants to utter it until the very last moment when people, especially children, are already on the brink of dying.

The United States has already provided nearly $400 million in humanitarian aid and due to impassable road conditions much of the relief will be delivered via air drops and river transport. The United Nations has estimated that $1.8 billion will be needed to provide aid for 3.4 million people.

Logistics Cluster posted a telling map of South Sudan dated from May 2, 2014. In Western Equitoria,  Central Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal there is little infrastructure save for some primary roads, which are questionably passable, and a few primary cities. The lack of reliable infrastructure continues to make humanitarian relief difficult to fulfill.

According to UNICEF, nearly one million children in South Sudan will require treatment for acute malnutrition this year and according to Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, 50,000 may die from malnutrition in the coming months.

“The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children here are dying each and every day,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a statement, speaking after a visit to the devastated city of Malakal, where tens of thousands of people still take shelter on a UN base. “Today we spoke to mothers who have struggled through conflict, displacement and hunger to stop their children from dying. We all have to do more, and quickly, to keep more children alive.”

 Country: South Sudan Year: 2014 Photographer: Christine Nesbitt title / Job name:  caption:      On 11 August, Nyabol Hion holds her 2-year-old daughter, Nyanmot Lam, at Al Sabbah Paediatric Hospital in Juba, the capital. “I travelled here by boat with my husband’s brother,” says Ms. Hion. “My three other children stayed with my husband in Walyar in Unity State." Her home was destroyed during the conflict, and she lived for a while in the bush after fleeing the fighting. Nyanmot’s illness began in April 2014, but she has been in hospital for only three days, receiving therapeutic milk every two hours for her malnutrition, as well as antibiotics to treat her diarrhoea and vomiting. “Nyanmot is not the only sick child I’ve seen,” say Ms. Hion. “Many children are sick, and many are passing away.” After Nyanmot’s treatment, they will return to Walyar. “My wish is for a good life and peace,” says Ms. Hion, who advises mothers that “if your child is sick, take the child to the hospital.” In early August 2014 in South Sudan, 1.1 million people have been displaced since resurgent conflict erupted in mid-December 2013. An estimated 588,222 of the displaced are children. Some 434,000 people have also sought refuge in neighbouring countries. UNICEF has appealed for US$151.7 million to cover emergency responses across the vital areas of nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene; protection; education; multi-sector refugee response; and cholera response. By 5 August, 62 per cent remained unfunded.

On 11 August,NyabolHion holds her 2-year-old daughter,Nyanmot Lam, at AlSabbahPaediatric Hospital in Juba, the capital. “I travelled here by boat with my husband’s brother,” says Ms.Hion. “My three other children stayed with my husband inWalyar in Unity State.” Her home was destroyed during the conflict, and she lived for a while in the bush after fleeing the fighting. Nyanmot’s illness began in April 2014, but she has been in hospital for only three days, receiving therapeutic milk every two hours for her malnutrition, as well as antibiotics to treat her diarrhoea and vomiting. “Nyanmot is not the only sick child I’ve seen,” say Ms.Hion. “Many children are sick, and many are passing away.” After Nyanmot’s treatment, they will return toWalyar. “My wish is for a good life and peace,” says Ms.Hion, who advises mothers that “if your child is sick, take the child to the hospital.”

 

A team of UN Security officials travelled through parts of Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal, to assess the state of the road and other conditions, including local conditions that might impact travel. A woman mixes cassava flour in the back of an old UN vehicle in Langwa Payam, on the road between Maridi and Mundri, Western Equatoria. 26 July 2014 Western Equatoria, South Sudan
A team of UN Security officials travelled through parts of Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal, to assess the state of the road and other conditions, including local conditions that might impact travel.A woman mixes cassava flour in the back of an old UN vehicle in Langwa Payam, on the road between Maridi and Mundri, Western Equatoria.
26 July 2014
Western Equatoria, South Sudan

 

A team of UN Security officials travelled through parts of Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal, to assess the state of the road and other conditions, including local conditions that might impact travel. A group of truck drivers take turns clearing earth to drain water from an impassable section of road that has stopped close to 100 trucks on the road linking Western Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal

A group of truck drivers take turns clearing earth to drain water from an impassable section of road that has stopped close to 100 trucks on the road linking Western Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal
UN Security Team Conducts Road Assessment in South Sudan
A team of UN Security officials travelled through parts of Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal, to assess the state of the road and other conditions, including local conditions that might impact travel. Children stay in the cab while the Security Team jump-starts a truck with a dead battery in Western Equatoria. 23 July 2014 Western Equatoria, South Sudan
UN Security Team Conducts Road Assessment in South Sudan
A team of UN Security officials travelled through parts of Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal, to assess the state of the road and other conditions, including local conditions that might impact travel. The Security Team tows out a stuck vehicle in Western Equatoria, near the town of Lui.
UN Security Team Conducts Road Assessment in South Sudan
A team of UN Security officials travelled through parts of Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal, to assess the state of the road and other conditions, including local conditions that might impact travel. Drivers of an overturned truck set up a tarpaulin for shelter from the rain near Yambio, Western Equatoria. 23 July 2014 Yambio, South Sudan

Photos: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Exclusive Breastfeeding Rates in Kenya Still Low

By Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, Kenyan motherhood blogger and maternal/child health journalist based in Nairobi.

As Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the World Breastfeeding Week, health experts in the country are calling on more stringent efforts to be put in place that will encourage more women to exclusively breastfeed their babies. Though the country has noted an increase in the exclusive breastfeeding rates over the last decade, the numbers are still not enough.

Data from the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) show that in 2003, the exclusive breastfeeding rates stood at 13 per cent, and which rose to 32 per cent in 2008. Despite this remarkable improvement, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mr. James Macharia says that the figures are still not at a desirable level, adding that many Kenyan children still miss out on the important nutritional benefits of breastmilk.

“Out of approximately 1.5 million children born each year in Kenya, only 500,000 of them are exclusively breastfed. This means that over 1 million babies are exposed to the unnecessary risk of malnutrition and increased illness which impact negatively on the country’s road to achieving MDG 4 –that of reducing child mortality,” he says.

New mom at PumwaniA new mother at Pumwani Maternity Hospital on August 1 2014, the day of the launch of the World Brestfeeding Week celebrations in Nairobi at the maternity hospital.

The reasons for the low uptake of exclusive breastfeeding among Kenyan mothers are many. A study conducted by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in two urban slums in Nairobi revealed that only about 2 per cent of children were breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. The study also found out that about 15 per cent of children stop breastfeeding altogether by the end of the first year. Some of the reasons for this low uptake include: poverty, food insecurity, ignorance about best breastfeeding practices, lack of social support, as well as myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding.

Another reason for the low uptake of exclusive breastfeeding is misinformation about breastfeeding when the mother is HIV positive. A significant number of HIV+ Kenyan women think they will transmit HIV to their newborns if they breastfeed them, and so do not offer them breastmilk at all, instead offering them cow’s milk. Notably, and in relation to this, is the fact that the number of Kenyan women who seek antenatal care services (a minimum of four visits during their pregnancy) is only at 47 per cent. Similarly, the number of women who seek postnatal care is 42 per cent. These figures only mean that a large number of women miss out on ideal opportunities for them to receive information about best practices in maternal and newborn health, including information about the extraordinary benefits of breastfeeding.

Working women face barriers too as there are some Kenyan employers who do not adhere to the Kenya Employment Act which offers women a maternity leave of fourteen weeks. Many working women have been called to return work before the end of their maternity leave. Sadly, and despite being aware of the law and its provisions regarding this, many career women agree to return to work before completion of their maternity leave for fear of losing their jobs. Consequently, many middle and upper class working women introduce formula milk to their babies from as early as two months, while the low income women who cannot afford formula milk introduce cow’s milk or porridge to their baby’s diet.

Ignorance also exists among many rural women, who believe that breastmilk alone is not sufficient enough for a baby’s optimal growth and therefore introduce porridge (blended with fish, millet and sorghum) from as early as two months in order to ‘supplement’ the baby’s diet. For many rural communities, a ‘fat’ baby is considered healthy, and many mothers, for fear of reprimand by relatives and health workers about having a ‘think unhealthy baby’ introduce solids to babies (mixed with margarine) at a tender age. Many women in rural communities are yet to be reached with information on the fact that breastmilk alone contains all the nourishment a baby needs for the first six months of life.

Some of the steps the government has made to try and increase the uptake of breastfeeding among Kenyan mothers is the enactment of the Breastmilk and Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act (2012) which regulates the marketing and distribution of breastmilk substitutes and provides for safe and adequate nutrition for infants through promotion of breastfeeding.

The government has also adopted the Option B+ program, where mothers and their newborns receive ARVs, and which helps keep the baby HIV negative while still enjoying all the benefits of breastmilk.

Terry WefwafwaTerry Wefwafwa, head of nutrition and dietetics at the Ministry of Health. She is hopeful that increased awareness campaigns on breasfeeding will translate into more women taking up the practice.

There have also been awareness campaigns through the media –both mainstream and community radio promoting exclusive breastfeeding. Such campaigns work towards increasing the level of information to not only the women, but also men and other members of the household on the critical role they can play with regard to supporting best breastfeeding practices. It is these awareness campaigns that are giving Kenya’s head of nutrition and dietetics, Mrs. Terry Wefwafwa confidence that the next survey will reveal a significant increase in the number of women exclusively breastfeeding.

“Since the last survey was done in 2008, intense sensitization among communities about the benefits of breasmilk have been done, and I am confident that the uptake on exclusive breastfeeding has increased. This will be evident in the next survey report,” she says.

Maryanne_Waweru pptMaryanne Waweru-Wanyama is a motherhood blogger from Nairobi, Kenya. She tells her motherhood stories on her blog mummytales.com where she also incorporates the experiences of other Kenyan mothers. On her blog, Maryanne provides education on pregnancy, birth, delivery and infant and child care and nutrition. Maryanne is a journalist with over fourteen years experience and who has written, and still writes for various publications in Kenya including: the Daily Nation newspaper, the Star newspaper, the Standard newspaper, Parents Magazine, Healthy Woman Magazine, Healthy Child Magazine and many other publications. Her area of specialty is human interest features, maternal and child health articles. Maryanne is married with two sons.

Can Africa Truly Feed Itself and the World?

Can Africa truly feed itself and the world? 

If you ask former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kofi Annan, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, during his tenure as the head of the United Nations Annan says in the latest round of FutureFood 2050‘s interviews that he made food security in Africa one of his greatest priorities. “I realized early on that the eradication of hunger is not just an end in itself,” Annan mentioned in his interview. “It is a first step toward sustainable development and progress in general, for a hungry man is not a free man. He cannot focus on anything else but securing his next meal.”

The recently released report, Optimism for African Agriculture and Food Systems, said definitively that Africa can indeed feed itself and can produce enough surplus to feed the world. While that is fantastic news to look forward to by 2050, the year in which there will be an estimated nine billion mouths to feed, there are numerous variables such as the need for better irrigation and seed varieties, more smallholder farmer training and access to capital, increased private investment in agriculture, and acute attention paid to climate change and farming practices that need to be addressed first. Without partnerships and investments Africa will continue to undernourish itself and certainly won’t be able to trade crops to any othe continents.

If it has been said once, it’s been said a thousand times that the women of Africa will feed the continent. In fact, a one percent growth in farm production equates to an 11 percent reduction in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Jane Karuku, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Those are powerful statistics. Women grow up to 80 percent of all food in sub-Saharan Africa. It is imperative, then, that women are afforded the same access to loans, irrigation, better seeds, and micro credit in order to produce the optimal amount of food. And sub-Saharan countries need to invest more in the agriculture sector, not on paper, but in reality. Accountability is key here.

Africans are speaking up and expressing that the agriculture techniques that have been successful in the west aren’t necessarily adaptable to Africa. Ruth Oniang’o, the founder of Rural Outreach Africa, for example, believes that creating better food yields in Africa means understanding the African context. Oniang’o also believes that Africans can best teach other Africans about best farming practices and techniques because the farmers know they aren’t going anywhere.

“The farmers know us and they know of us. We make them our friends, and they know we are not going anywhere,” she says. “It’s not just a question of money. It’s working with you to make better use of what you have at the ground level, and just being able to appreciate and maintain dignity.”

Juma Gama, a farmer in northern Tanzania told me last year that, “Many people don’t like to join [farming collectives] because some NGOs came and took their money and went away.” Oniang’o sees the remedy to this problem being largelythrough grassroots efforts to work with smallholder farmers and investment with  Africans. Jane Karuku believes that when agricultural change and leadership come from Africans it’s easier to be adapted across the continent.

Farmer training in Magulilwa village in Iringa District, Tanzania
Farmer training in Magulilwa village in Iringa District, Tanzania.

Africans are also looking at a renewed Green Revolution to harvest more indigenous crops as a way to fight against climate change.

“We are trying to make sure that the diversity of these crops withstands the challenges we are seeing with weather or climate change, and also from a value system where people have always eaten them because of their nutrition,” said Karuku. “So we work on a whole range of crops.”

Some African agriculture leaders believe food science and technology are the key to unlocking malnutrition on the continent and increasing food yields. Harvard international development professor Calestous Juma believes in educating African leaders and countries about genetically modified crops, which Africans incidentally have yet to take to or accept. “It is no longer possible to rely on folk knowledge as the key guide for farming,” Juma said in his FutureFood 2050 interview.

You can read all of Future Food 2050’s interviews with leaders across the globe who are working to better feed the planet by 2050 at www.futurefood2050.com.

How You Can Help End Poverty and Hunger

Did you know that Heifer International has been working for 70 years to end poverty and hunger around the world? Did you also know that they have also partnered with 20.7 million families in low and middle-income countries positively affecting the lives of over 100 million people?

Heifer International GiftsAs Heifer International celebrates its 70th year, you can also help end poverty and hunger by purchasing gifts from their Valentine’s Day Gift Catalog that make a difference. Here are some fantastic ideas:

  •  “Bee Mine!” Give Your Honey the Gift of Honeybees ($30) – A gift of honeybees includes a bee package, hive, box and training in beekeeping techniques. A donation of honeybees boosts income through sales of honey, wax and pollen, and stimulates growth of the family’s crops through pollination.
  •  “You’re my Sweet Chick!” A Flock of Chicks for your Favorite Chick ($20) – A gift of chicks helps provide a family in need with a starter flock of 10 to 50 chicks, along with training that will empower them to turn this gift into a lifetime of opportunity. Each flock of chicks provides eggs and protein for nourishment, and boosts income through sales of extra eggs and offspring.
  • “I’m Over the MOOOn for you!” A Heifer for the One You Udderly Love ($50 a share/$500): A heifer provides milk and nourishment to hungry families, boosts income through sales of extra milk, and encourages better crop yields by creating fertilizer. Heifers have many uses and are capable to bringing stability to the lives of people struggling with hunger.
  • “To the Best Kid” Give the Gift of a Kid to your All Star Kid ($120): A dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day – a ton of milk a year. Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt. Families also learn to use goat manure to fertilize gardens, instead of using synthetic fertilizers.

All photos courtesy of Heifer International

Chad Comes in Last in New Global Food Index

Yesterday Oxfam released its new Global Food Index that shows the best and worst places to eat. Across all indicators Chad came in dead last in the index. The indicators to rank the countries include having enough food to eat, food affordability, diabetes and overweight citizens, and food quality. In fact, along with Chad, eighteen of the last twenty countries in the index are sub-Saharan African countries save for Yemen and Lao’s People Democratic Republic. Conversely, the top country in the index is the Netherlands followed by fellow European countries France and Switzerland. The top ranking sub-Saharan country is South Africa, to be expected, followed closely by Botswana.

Global Food Index    Oxfam

Parsing the data by indicator the best country for food quality is Iceland and the worst is Madagascar. The best country for food affordability is the Netherlands and Guinea is the worst. South Africa is the best sub-Saharan country based on the food affordability indicator. I am happy to see this data as this is the experience I have had while spending time in South Africa. Food is quite affordable there.

See the full interactive data on the Oxfam web site.

“Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “Across the globe, particularly in developing countries, far too many people are consuming more and more unhealthy food.  Paradoxically, more than 800 million people cannot get enough nutritious food to eat. Governments and the food industry are failing to ensure that everyone is able to eat healthfully, despite there being more than enough food to go around.”

According to FAO’s The State of Food Insecurity in the World (2103 edition) 1 in 8 people around the world experience chronic hunger. Undernourishment decreased by 17% since 1990-1992. However, 12% of the world’s population was not able to meet all of its daily dietary needs and most of those people live in Southern Asia (295 million) followed by sub-Saharan Africa (223 million).

FAO Data

Based on data from the UN, Millennium Development Goal 1 that states hunger should be halved by 2015 is in reach. FAO believes MDG 1 can be met, but many countries will not reach the target reduction in hunger. Countries that have experienced conflict within the last twenty days and landlocked countries with unfavorable trade laws have the least chance of improving hunger rates.

How much would it cost to feed all hungry children the world over? The World Food Program estimates that $3.2 billion would be needed annually to feed all hungry children. Of course, that doesn’t take into account all of the adults, particularly women who are expecting, who do not have enough food to eat.

Our Favorite Sound Capture of 2013

Using Soundcloud was one of the best ways to report from the field in Africa last year. One of our favorite sound captures of last year was in Tanzania after spending time with the Maasai in the arid northern part of the country. Hosted by Oikos, an Italian NGO that works with the Maasai to help them preserve the little environmental integrity that is left, we were treated to a traditional dance performed by Maasai men after a dinner of roasted goat and other traditional fare.

Play the sounds of the Maasai below.

Read more about Oikos and their work in When the Rains Slowed: Food and Hunger in Tanzania.

Feeding Malnourished Children in Macha, Zambia #ZambiaHealth

I saw for the very first time in my life a severe acute malnourished child. He was two. I didn’t ask his name as not to pry into the intimate lives of two parents whose main concern was the life and health of their little one, but I will never forget his swollen face.

I met this toddler at the Macha Mission Hospital in the Southern Province in Zambia where I am traveling as an International Reporting Project fellow. His face was full of open sores, especially around his mouth, and he was severely lethargic, not even able to hold his head up and opted instead to rest his heavy head on his father’s shoulder. His father’s eyes met mine as he asked through them for me to help. I couldn’t. I was just there as an observer.

The malnourished child’s tiny bare feet were sticking out of dirty trousers and were exposing raw flesh that was trying to heal. I noticed his feet where also quite swollen, a noticeable sign of oedema and an exclamation point saying that he did not have the proper amount of nutrients and food coursing through his body to make him a happy and healthy little boy.

In this area of Zambia, in Macha, most of the people are subsistence farmers who live on homesteads and survive on less than $1.50 USD per day. This is consistent throughout the country where 60.5 percent of Zambians live in poverty and the top 10 percent of Zambians own nearly 48 percent of the wealth according to World Bank data. Poverty is rife here, especially in the rural areas where employment is a toss-up, and some of the outcomes of endemic poverty is malnutrition in children. In fact, 45 percent of Zambian children are stunted due to a lack of proper nutrition.

At this government-run hospital Macha Mission nurses provide malnourished children with HEPS (high energy protein supplement). They prepare this porridge-like mixture for the children during their stay and when they leave parents are given the supplement powder to continue providing necessary nutrition to their children.

While one of the most well-known international nutritional products for malnourished children is Plumpy Nut for children and Plumpy Sup for adults, the Executive Director of Macha Mission Hospital, Mr. Abrahan Mhango, told me that Plumpy Nut and Sup are not always available to them and so the hospital uses a powdered nutritional supplement instead.

HEPS - High energy protein supplement

Mixtures, of course, are made based on nutritional need and age and size of the children. The chart for mixture amounts is easily referenced in the hospital kitchen for the nurses.

HEPS Schedule

Breastfeeding in Zambia

At every clinic where I have gone and even in everyday settings I have seen pro-breastfeeding literature, billboards, and even handwritten signs. These seem to be working. In Zambia, 61 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and then it gradually tapers to 37 percent from 6 – 23 months. Save the Children recommends that children be breastfed during the first hour after birth.

Breastfeeding

I have no idea what Zambia is going to do about their malnutrition problem. I will follow this story and report from what I see on the Net. I hope malnutrition and stunting rates go down.