Integrated Nutrition And WASH Project Transforms Binga Fortunes

NUTRITION is a basic human right and has been identified as the most pertinent and key component in ensuring countries achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), hence the need for a multisectoral nutrition security approach towards realising nutrition goals for citizens.

By Michael Gwarisa in Binga

Despite most governments including Zimbabwe having committed to advancing nutrition centered solutions as well as ending malnutrition by the year 2030, more still needs to be done to realise this vision.

In Binga, the issue of food insecurity as a result of reoccurring droughts has gravely affected most villagers’ ability to adhere to a basic four star diet which comprise of legumes, animal products,  vegetable and fruits. According to statistics, Binga currently has a food insecurity situation and figures are standing at 66.5 percent and could result in massive malnutrition admissions if no interventions are put in place.

Malnutrition however is not only caused by lack of food or a balanced diet but certain conditions such as diarrhoeal diseases, sickness among others can cause malnutrition and wasting. To address the growing burden of malnutrition, there is need for an integrated nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) approach.

To ensure the Binga community gets a lasting and sustainable solution to the reoccurring droughts and impeding signs of malnutrition, Save the Children, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) operating in five Binga districts wards is spearheading a nutrition and WASH program which has seen villagers benefit immensely.

The nutrition project has empowered villagers in Kaliangwe and Chinonge wards to venture into Nutrition gardens which have seen villagers turning around their nutrition fortunes over the past few years. In the Kaliangwe nutrition garden project, Save the Children has helped through setting up a garden as well as installing a state of the art water system which pumps water into the garden reservoirs for irrigation.

The villagers in the two wards, Kaliangwe abd Chinonge have also come up with male and female meeting spheres dubbed Padare and women community health groups where villagers converge and receive basic information and education regarding nutrition, sanitation and hygiene.

Tobias Muganda a beneficiary and member of the Padare male group said the project has made men in the area better husbands and fathers who respect the rights of their wives as well as the nutrition needs of children.

Before, we didn’t even know how to look after our wives. We would abuse our wives daily, but because of the Padare, we have learnt that we should work for our wives unlike before where we would just wake up and head straight to look for traditional beer.

“We have learnt that we should not abuse our wives and our children also deserve to eat healthy. Before this program came, men are the ones who used to get the lion’s share during meals. Our traditions tell us that men should eat the meat, the eggs and good food but all that has changed now. Through the nutrition gardens, we have managed to transform our livelihoods, we now grow various vegetables for consumption and commercial purposes meaning we can also afford to eat what we want,” said Muganda.

The male and women support groups have more than 20 members and the numbers are growing daily owing to tangible results being realised from the project. The villagers in Kariangwe also hinted that open defecation and poor waste management and disposal used be a problem in the area but owing to the WASH program, they have managed to dig up latrines and garbage pits.

Dorris Mwembe a member of the women community healtht group said a dirty environment coupled with poor nutrition was a recipe for disaster.

“We have learnt that for one to attain a four star diet meal, one does not necessarily need to but fancy foods but rather use available resources. Foods which give energy include maize meal, and small grains meal.

“Foods that fight diseases include pumpkin leaves, Moringa and others. Some foods which fight diseases include legumes. We have also been taught the essentials of breastfeeding. One needs to be smart and hygienic when breastfeeding. You first wash your hands then you clean the breast. Even after changing dippers and nappies, one has to wash her hands before breastfeeding,” said Mwembe.

Nutrition coordinator for Kariangwe, Chinonge wards, Fanuel Mwinde said the community health clubs which are  being supported by Save the children have helped in behavior change especially for men who traditionally used to think food, nutrition and hygiene matters were women domains.

“What we do is to encourage the groups to teach breastfeeding mothers on how to promote hygiene. We also promote food demos on how to prepare a four star diet. Through dramas, we have also managed to convey the message in a way that the communities comprehend.

“We also promote nutrition gardens and wherever there is a community health club, there is a nutrition garden. The support from the village heads and village health workers has been overwhelming and whatever we do, the chiefs and councilors know what will be happening. We also teach men how to care for their families as well as teach them to follow up on cases of malnutrition which would have defaulted,” said Mwinde.

Meanwhile, Save the Children nutrition manager, Mthulisi Dube said the integrated WASH and nutrition project has greatly improved the nutritional status of villagers in Binga.

“As save the children, we are complementing government’s efforts in improving the nutritional status of communities in Binga district. This we are doing through a variety of activities and one of them being behaviour change when it comes to nutrition, especially nutrition for children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women.

“We are also doing this through improvements in health, sanitation and hygiene and we are also doing this through improvement in dietary diversity through our nutrition gardens and through support from the ministry of agriculture in terms of growing of bio fortified and diversified food crops,” said Dube.

He added that the reoccurring droughts in Binga district had left a trail of misery in terms of food security in the district and the nutrition garden project had come at the right time.

“You find that in terms of rain fed agriculture, there is nothing to talk about here in Binga district. So you find that the nutrition gardens which are getting water from different water sources are able to give different communities food especially diversified options for them to feed their families especially the children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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