WFP tack­les chronic mal­nu­tri­tion

. . . as Ja­pan in­vests in fight­ing stunt­ing among Ba­sotho chil­dren

Lesotho Times - - Feature -

BEREA — ‘ Mate­boho Lehlome, 30, sat un­der a tree feed­ing her 14-month-old daugh­ter the tra­di­tional mo­toho bev­er­age, as she en­gaged in a lively de­bate with three fel­low vil­lagers.

Since stop­ping breast­feed­ing her third child, Lehlome has been giv­ing her the sta­ple food papa (thick maize-meal por­ridge) with vegetables and the sorghum mo­toho drink.

On this spe­cial day, the four women ar­rived early at the clinic lo­cated in Liphokoa­neng vil­lage in Berea dis­trict, and waited pa­tiently for the dis­tri­bu­tion of Su­per Ce­real Plus por­ridge at the Im­mac­u­late Clinic. On a monthly ba­sis, scores of women col­lect the por­ridge to feed their chil­dren who are be­low the age of two years.

The women look ex­cited as they wait — and this is be­cause they have re­ceived some ed­u­ca­tion from the nurses on the nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits of the por­ridge, which as­sists in pre­vent­ing stunt­ing (chronic mal­nu­tri­tion), a con­di­tion that cur­rently af­fects 39.2 per­cent of chil­dren in Le­sotho.

This high stunt­ing rate is clas­si­fied as crit­i­cal based on World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion stan­dards.

Stunt­ing (low height for age) also af­fects a child’s cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment. Like what some nu­tri­tion­ists in­di­cated this week, the dev­as­tat­ing re­al­ity was stunt­ing is like a curse that never goes away once it is not pre­vented when the child is be­low the age of two years.

Sadly, out of the 39.2 per­cent of chil­dren af­fected, 14.8 are se­verely stunted and the ir­re­versible con­se­quences, very grave.

In the midst of the high stunt­ing preva­lence, Ms Lehlome’s baby is one of the lucky ones. De­spite the food-in­se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the fam­ily, Ms Lehlome re­ceives some por­ridge that will make her stand a chance to re­alise her full po­ten­tial in life — thanks to the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment.

Through a US$3.7 mil­lion fund­ing re­ceived from Ja­pan in 2013 and 2014, the United Na­tions World Food Pro­gramme ( WFP) has reached 18,724 chil­dren with Su­per Ce­real Plus por­ridge through­out the coun­try.

How­ever, part of the fund­ing is also as­sist­ing 25,000 peo­ple build their re­silience to weather-re­lated shocks in the four dis­tricts of Maseru, Mafeteng, Mo­hale’s Hoek and Quthing.

Mean­while, un­der the nu­tri­tion as­sis­tance, Ms Lehlome was quick to high­light how the por­ridge has changed the life of her baby and put a smile on her face. “My child is now healthy.

I am grate­ful for this as­sis­tance be­cause my fam­ily can­not af­ford the nu­tri­tious food we should be giv­ing my daugh­ter. I am happy that she is such an en­er­getic child,” Ms Lehlome said.

With the two years of con­tin­ued fund­ing from Ja­pan, WFP has, since 2013, pur­chased a va­ri­ety of food com­modi­ties to sus­tain the nu­tri­tional support of both the moth­ers and chil­dren.

A to­tal of 803 metric tonnes (mt) of Su­per Ce­real Plus, 885 mt of maize-meal and 198 mt of peas, have been pur­chased so far.

The WFP Deputy Coun­try Di­rec­tor, Arduino Man­goni said: “Nu­tri­tious food support for chil­dren un­der the age of two, and in par­tic­u­lar those from food-in­se­cure house­holds, is im­por­tant for their good health and de­vel­op­ment.”

A nurse at Im­mac­u­late Clinic, Retha­bile Kori said stunt­ing is a huge chal­lenge in the 26 vil­lages served by the cen­tre.

The truth of the mat­ter, she said, was that many fam­i­lies strug­gled to put food on their ta­bles, let alone nu­tri­tious food that is es­pe­cially in­tended for the grow­ing bod­ies and minds of chil­dren.

She em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of the early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of all chil­dren de­prived of ad­e­quate nu­tri­tion.

“Most fam­i­lies here are poor sub­sis­tence farm­ers; they don’t have enough food and money. Many live far be­low the poverty line. As a re­sult, we are try­ing to iden­tify all the af­fected chil­dren on time.

“To achieve this, we are work­ing closely with vil­lage health work­ers to en­sure the chil­dren are regis­tered to re­ceive the nu­tri­tious por­ridge,” Ms Kori said.

The role of the com­mu­nity health work­ers, she said, ex­tends beyond the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of cases.

The vil­lage health work­ers also oc­ca­sion­ally hold out­reach cam­paigns with the aim of ed­u­cat­ing fam­i­lies about healthy eat­ing prac­tices.

How­ever, it is not only the farm­ing house­holds which col­lect nu­tri­tious food from the clinic.

“We do have em­ployed moth­ers who can af­ford nu­tri­tious food rec­om­mended for ba­bies but some do not know what food to buy and how to pre­pare it.

“We usu­ally be­gin to no­tice signs of mal­nu­tri­tion among chil­dren from such fam­i­lies after six months of ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing.”

Ms Kori said the clinic also has cases of chil­dren whose health de­te­ri­o­rated after they grad­u­ated from the Su­per Ce­real Plus feed­ing scheme.

To deal with the chal­lenge, she said, the chil­dren are en­rolled onto another WFP pro­gramme tar­get­ing chil­dren un­der the age of five years.

The clinic and the vil­lage health work­ers are also on the look-out for chil­dren be­ing looked after by poor grand­par­ents or rel­a­tives in the ab­sence of the par­ents due to var­i­ous rea­sons.

‘Mamoitheri Mohlanka is one such grand­mother who found her­self with a grand­son to care for after her daugh­ter de­cided to travel to South Africa to look for em­ploy­ment.

“I started tak­ing care of my grand­son when he was only six months old. It was dif­fi­cult for me be­cause I am an un­em­ployed widow. In the last sea­son, my fam­ily har­vested very lit­tle and we are strug­gling for food,” Ms Mohlanka said.

With the lit­tle money she got as a part-time do­mes­tic worker, Ms Mohlanka would buy ba­sic food for her fam­ily of six, which, un­for­tu­nately did not meet her grand­son’s nu­tri­tional re­quire­ments.

“Four months ago, I no­ticed that he was not well. His health had de- teri­o­rated fast. I got wor­ried and brought him here (Im­mac­u­late Clinic) to ask for help.”

At the clinic, the nurses re­alised her grand­son was mal­nour­ished and im­me­di­ately en­rolled him on the WFP feed­ing pro­gramme.

“I am see­ing tremen­dous im­prove­ment in his health. The por­ridge is good. My grand­son can now walk.

“Although I still have to work hard to feed my fam­ily, I no longer worry about what my grand­son will eat be­cause WFP is tak­ing care of that.”

Glob­ally, WFP’S main ob­jec­tive is to ul­ti­mately erad­i­cate hunger through var­i­ous pro­grammes.

One such crit­i­cal strat­egy is build­ing the ca­pac­ity of com­mu­ni­ties to col­lec­tively act against fac­tors that push them to be­come food -in­se­cure.

Un­der Le­sotho WFP’S Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion com­po­nent of its Coun­try Pro­gramme, the world’s largest hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tion is, through the Food For As­sets scheme, equip­ping 25 000 peo­ple with knowl­edge and skills on how to build their re­silience to cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters.

Shocks such as droughts, floods and early frost, neg­a­tively im­pact ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties’ food pro­duc­tion ef­forts. The ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties make up 70 per­cent of the coun­try’s 1.8mil­lion pop­u­la­tion and heav­ily de­pend on rain-fed agri­cul­ture.

Part of the US$3.7 mil­lion fund­ing from the Gov­ern­ment of Ja­pan has en­abled WFP to pur­chase 1 515 mt of maize-meal and peas to use as an in­cen­tive for the tar­geted com­mu­ni­ties en­gag­ing in land re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ac­tiv­i­ties such as the plant­ing of trees and grass in or­der to re­duce soil ero­sion and the con­struc­tion of stone-lines on steep land and in the gul­lies for both soil and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, are mak­ing a huge dif­fer­ence to the en­vi­ron­ment.

In 2013, WFP Le­sotho in­tro­duced a five-year Coun­try Pro­gramme (CP) di­vided into three com­po­nents of Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion, Early Child­hood Care and De­vel­op­ment and Nu­tri­tion and Health.

Another pro­gramme, the School Meals, was also launched to pro­vide two nu­tri­tious hot meals per each school day to 200,000 pupils in 1,020 schools through­out the coun­try.

Un­der the CP, the Nu­tri­tion and Health com­po­nent tar­gets 64 000 preg­nant women, nurs­ing moth­ers, chil­dren un­der the ages of two and five and pa­tients on An­tiRetro­vi­ral Ther­apy and TB treat­ment.

The Early Child­hood Care and De­vel­op­ment pro­vides two hot meals to 50 000 pre-school chil­dren coun­try­wide.

— Wfp-le­sotho

Some of the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the WFP feed­ing scheme help dis­trib­ute the Su­per Ce­real Plus por­ridge at the Im­mac­u­late Clinic in Berea.

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