Improving access to food is important, but just as important is creating access to enough, nutritious food. In Zambia, thanks to better farming techniques, pregnant women and children under two are improving their nutrition.
A 2013 study showed that almost half of the children in Eastern Province in Zambia had stunted growth. Stunting is due mainly to poor diet from a lack of nutritious food. The study showed that stunting was particularly prevalent in the Petakue area that includes where Mary Phiri, a mother from Mzamaa, lives.
The Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced Resilience (FANSER) project, funded and implemented by Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Chipata and GIZ, a German development agency, has a goal of reaching 12,000 households in Zambia’s Eastern Province. The project works to teach parents better nutrition and hygiene practices that will improve their babies’ health and development and, very importantly, eliminate hunger and malnutrition.
“Good nutrition is vital in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life,” says Margaret Mwenya, who manages the project for CRS. That first 1,000 days includes pregnancy, so a good diet for mothers is crucial too. To tackle stunting in this region of Zambia, families are now learning just how vital their child’s first 1,000 days are to their development and growth.
Families are taught 18 lessons, including farming techniques and safe food storage. Special emphasis is placed on the main food groups and how often they should be consumed by a baby and mother during pregnancy and while nursing. If a mother isn’t consuming enough of the right foods, her baby can face stunting even before birth.
Another critical lesson in the project is hygiene, which can impact nutrition in sometimes surprising ways. Families are taught drying techniques for their cooking utensils and how to build their own drying rack. They are also taught about proper hand washing and food handling. These lessons are important in preventing illnesses that can cause the child to lose vital nutrition. Teaching these lessons can be a challenge because of language barriers, so the use of picture books and radio broadcasts are important.
Mary Phiri, a mother from Mzama taking part in the FANSER project, learned how to create and tend a backyard garden, of which she is very proud. Her vegetable patch allows Mary to provide highly nutritious produce year-round to her family. “My children are growing up healthy, strong and smart,” Mary says. “They love the new foods.”
Mary attributes the growth of her children to the FANSER project and the knowledge she’s gained, which goes further than learning how to garden. She’s learned about healthy food groups, how to handle food safely, and good hygiene practices.
To reach 12,000 households, the program implemented a care group structure which relies on volunteers learning all the health and nutrition lessons from expert health promoters. The volunteers, in turn, go out into the villages to pass on the wisdom to mothers like Mary.
The volunteers are proud of their work and know how important it is for their communities. They use song and dance to make the lessons fun and make the class more like a party. Wisely, they understand that this not only boosts attendance, but rhymes and rhythms help make a lesson stick.
“I know my children have a bright future because they are healthier,” Mary says. “I can see how much they have grown since January.”
Your Voice Making a Difference to Eliminate Hunger and Improve Nutrition:
In 2018, we engaged in the reauthorization of two critical pieces of legislation—the Global Food Security Act and the Farm Bill. After a full year of phone calls, meetings and emails—we can be proud of the fact that our advocacy had a big impact! The Global Food Security Act was signed into law in October and the Farm Bill, just before the end of the year.
These are huge victories. Your advocacy means millions of people around the world experiencing hunger will benefit from key programs that were protected and improved in the reauthorization of these two bills!
Just recently, Congress finalized their negotiations about our FY2019 federal budget. You lifted your voices to ensure those who are hungry and malnourished in our one human family continue to be top of mind. It paid off as Congress protected this critical funding.
Very soon, the Administration will release their FY2020 budget proposal, and it is expected to propose drastic cuts to foreign assistance that is so vital for millions of families.
Send a message today to support critical funding for programs that prevent and end hunger worldwide!