Fighting malnutrition: Humphrey’s story

Cyclone Idai survivor, Jacqueline, sits outside her damaged house in Chikwawa with her son Humphrey
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Eldson Chagara

By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi

Chikwawa district, in Southern Malawi was one of the hardest hit by the March 2019 floods. The area consists of low-lying plains, making it vulnerable to flooding every rainy season. Jacqueline Devison, 21, is no stranger to this. A Chikwawa native she resides in Malemia village with her one-year old son.

On a bright sunny morning, she sits outside on a brown woven mat. Beside her is her son, Humphrey. Surrounding them is her parents’ home, and the ruins of her old house that was destroyed by the floods.

“I’m currently living with my parents because my house collapsed when the floods hit. I remember the day it happened. The house started falling while I was inside with my son, it was raining so hard. I quickly grabbed my son and hurried to my parents’ house, I screamed for my mother, as I saw her house filled with water too,” says Jacqueline. “The whole village was flooding, and we rushed to the camp. I lost some blankets, mats and buckets that I was keeping in my house,” she adds calmly while fighting back tears.

Jaqueline showing her out door pit latrine which was destroyed by the floods
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Eldson Chagara

Having been displaced by the floods, Jacqueline and her son stayed at Nthundu camp for about 3 months. It was during her stay there when she found out that her son was malnourished. He was identified by a mobile clinic team when they were conducting nutrition screening at the camp for under five children.  

Humphrey was referred to nearby Kalulu clinic where he was found with moderate acute malnutrition. He was immediately put on the supplementary feeding programme (SFP), and Jacqueline was advised to go to the clinic every two weeks to receive super cereal plus for her son in order to improve his nutrition status.

The role of Care-groups in improving nutrition

Humphrey’s mom is a beneficiary of the Dalitso Care-group.  Care-groups are designed to help reduce stunting in Malawi through their various activities. “In our Care-group they teach us about the 6 food groups and the kind of meals to cook. They tell us to be creative with the porridge we feed our children by adding eggs, vegetables and other nutritious foods to make sure our children remain healthy,” says Jacqueline. “We are taught good hygiene practices, and how to keep the home clean. In fact, I used to have an outdoor pit-latrine with a handwashing facility, but it was washed away by the floods.” She adds.

Mother group members in Romani village
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Eldson Chagara

The Care-group members support expectant mothers and mothers of under 5 children like Jacqueline with activities that include, door to door visits to advise them on feeding and breastfeeding practices. They also provide beneficiary families with livestock such as chickens to promote protein intake in their diets. Additionally, beneficiaries are taught various recipes through cooking demonstrations and are encouraged to have backyard gardens to grow a variety of vegetables.  

Jacqueline had her own vegetables garden which was also washed away with the floods. “I was very sad when I saw that my backyard garden got ruined by the floods. I had a garden with vegetables, nuts, moringa trees and pumpkins. I am actually working on starting a new garden now,” says Jacqueline.

Jacqueline receives visits from a care-group member twice a week and she relishes every visit as it has been key in her son’s recovery.  “I love the visits from the care group members, ” she illustrates. “I enjoy the cooking demonstrations a lot and I practice what we’re taught at home. Just last week I attended a session,” Jacqueline adds.

Jacqueline breastfeeding her one year old baby Humphrey
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Eldson Chagara

Lucky for her, Humphrey has now recovered. “My son has improved a lot, he is energetic and has an appetite. Previously he was always sleepy and hardly played with his friends. He eats lots of fruits, vegetables and beans. I want him to have a balanced diet,” Jacqueline explains.

Support from BMZ to reduce stunting

With support from BMZ (the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of the Government of Germany), UNICEF is implementing a programme on Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) to reduce stunting in Malawi. The progamme is currently being implemented in six  districts throughout the country. The support from BMZ has enabled UNICEF to train care groups to support communities in nutrition, health, sanitation and hygiene.

“The SUN programme is crucial in fighting malnutrition and preventing stunting in children in Malawi. It is important that communities, especially those in rural areas receive the right support and nutrition education to make sure their families have a healthy diet and are free from diseases,” says UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, Sangita Jacob Duggal. “BMZ’s support is going a long way to help children in Malawi and we are thankful for it.”

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