By Tatenda Rodney Macheka
WFP is supporting more than 7000 children in Zimbabwe reap the long-term benefits of a healthy start to life.
For Deladina Chiota, the anticipated joys of motherhood did not meet her exact expectations. When Deladina unexpectedly gave birth to twin girls — Gracious and Precious — her husband blamed her for bringing a double burden to his life, and left her.
As a young, newly-single mother, Deladina braced herself and decided to embrace what life had offered.“There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: twins,” says Daladina. “This has been a bittersweet journey for me. While my husband thought the girls are a burden, for me, they are a blessing and a joy to watch.”
“They are a blessing and a joy to watch.”
From August, Precious and Gracious, now 14 months old, are receiving World Food Programme (WFP)nutrition support in Mutasa as part of the joint Government-UNICEF-WFP pilot programme, east of Harare. To date, some 7,000 children — among them seven sets of twins — have attended the clinic at St Barbra’s Catholic Mission. The initiative, which started in 2014, has seen stunting rates in Zimbabwe fall from 42% to 31%.
WFP is working with existing Ministry of Health structures, such as village health workers and UNICEF, to address health and nutrition issues in Zimbabwe. The provision of fortified blended food by WFP to all children between 6–23 months regardless of nutritional status involves malnutrition screening, the administration of vitamin A, and follow-ups on immunizations and on those who might have dropped out from the vitamin A programme. This allows for a dual-track approach to both prevent stunting and treat malnutrition in young children.
Caregivers and mothers visit the health centers, where UNICEF supports the treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) through provision of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food-RUTF, which is supplied through the Government Ministry of Health. This support is extended to all Government health facilities and resources at community level, and provides micronutrient supplements to children and women of child bearing age. WFP works in counterpart to the SAM treatment by providing fortified blended food to children with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM).
“This [food] provided by WFP is highly nutritious and it helps mothers raise their children,” says Memory Karinda, a village health worker. “It is really making a difference in ending stunting.”
The programme also offers benefits beyond stunting prevention, as visitors to distribution sites and health centers receive important health information and assistance. Through trainings and capacity development, village health workers in the 41 Health centers are empowered with the skills and knowledge on prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition, promoting food security in families, ensuring child protection and providing water to households.
When mothers come to receive the fortified food for their children, they receive further instruction about breastfeeding and antenatal care. Mothers are also screened for malnutrition and HIV, and receive nutrition and HIV counselling at the clinics. Meanwhile, health workers meet community members and, where necessary, provide counselling.
While WFP and UNICEF provide the primary nutritional support, the Ministry of Health and Child Care shares its technical expertise with the community and health workers, facilities distribution of supporting commodities, and also offers additional complementary services such as immunizations.
Additional support from the World Health Organization and cooperating partners such as Plan International focuses on nutrition surveillance. These partners are responsible for the day-to-day running of the project, distributions, report writing, monitoring and evaluation.
Working together, the Government Ministry of Health and Child Care, UNICEF, and WFP and its many partners, support a comprehensive community of care, contributing not only to stunting treatment and prevention, but building a holistic, whole-health approach that’s good for the whole family.
And as for Deladina, Precious and Gracious — they know that this partnership will make all the difference.