This post was originally written by Africare
Approximately 33.4 percent of children under the age of five in the Morogoro Region of Tanzania experience stunting – a condition resulting from chronic malnutrition. Inadequate nutrition robs children of physical strength and impairs their cognitive development, leaving them at high risk of frequent illness and falling behind in school.
Ramiya described her first child, Sam, as sickly and vulnerable to a range of ailments. Without access to a variety of foods or knowledge of proper nutrition, Ramiya relied on community traditions to decide what to feed her son. When he was two months old, she fed him water and porridge. At six months, he started eating ugali, a local traditional dish of cooked maize flour with sauce. By his first birthday, Sam was eating the same food his parents ate at every meal.
When the Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program (MBNP) came to her community in 2012, Ramiya quickly became involved. MBNP is a USAID-funded organization led by Africare that aims to break the cycle of malnutrition and anemia through focusing on improved nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s development — from the mother’s pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. This is when growing bodies and minds need proper nutrients to develop and give the child “a good start,” which is what “Mwanzo Bora” means in Kiswahili. Working in partnership with the Government of Tanzania, the community-based program reaches mothers like Ramiya through peer support groups, where members can learn about selecting, growing, and preparing nutritious meals in a relaxed and familiar environment.
Community health workers and agriculture extension workers organize peer support groups and training in their respective villages, which are changing the way both mothers and fathers view nutrition. These workers cover many vital topics, including vegetable plots, raising small livestock, proper hand-washing methods, the importance of breastfeeding, and the need for a diversified diet.
The program has been a big success. Ramiya’s village is one of almost 9,000 villages MBNP has reached since its inception in 2011, benefiting close to two million women across Tanzania. Between 2010 and 2016, the prevalence of childhood stunting in Tanzania decreased by 8 percentage points.
Ramiya’s home is now a testament to the program’s success. She grows her own vegetables, raises rabbits, and her family sells them to buy other food that diversifies their diets. Ramiya is putting to good use everything she has learned from Africare’s MBNP program to ensure her entire family has a nutrient-rich diet.
The whole family is now reaping the benefits of well-rounded meals and an economically stable household. Sam, Ramiya’s first son, is healthier and doing better in school. Perhaps the most telling proof of the program’s impact on Ramiya’s family is her bright-eyed three year old, Tunda. Tunda, whose name means “fruit” in Kiswahili, is Ramiya’s second child. After Tunda was exclusively breastfed for the first six months, Ramiya introduced high-nutrition foods like porridge with a mixture of maize, rice, millet, and groundnuts. As a result, Tunda is thriving.
Ramiya’s experience is a powerful demonstration of how knowledge can empower communities to make positive behavior changes and build nutritional practices that are sure to bear fruit for years to come.
Ensuring healthier families is only one example of the important work Africare is doing across Africa every day. Learn more at www.africare.org.