Nutrition support provides lifeline for teen mother

Rizzie and her baby

30 October 2018:

A 10-minute walk on a rocky pathway past streams up a hill, takes us to a clearing with one house sitting on it with cassava vines growing in the surroundings, resembling a log cabin out in the woods. In this pathway, Audney Nkhata, a Government Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) for Kachere Health Centre, in the Nkhatabay district is leading the team visiting different households to share messages on best nutrition practices.

“People just have to learn that they need to eat healthy. In Nkhatabay there is food in abundance; fish, cassava, yams, potatoes, groundnuts, bananas, beans, maize and pears. When we meet the people in their households we teach them how to cook the different types of foods so they can improve their nutrition and how to prepare nutritious foods they never thought of,” says Audney.

Despite its scenic beauty, Nkhatabay district suffers from poor nutrition indicators. Being perched on the shore of Lake Malawi on one side, with rolling ever green hills on the other, the district’s stunting rate still stands at 33 percent despite the area being well resourced with water and land for growing of nutritious foods. Across the country, and particularly here, chronic malnutrition, is greatly attributed to cultural practices and lack of knowledge of the right kinds of food to eat.

After a 10 minutes’ walk, Audney reaches the home of Rizzie Mwale, a teen mom (18) who benefitted from nutrition support provided at Kachere Heath Centre during her pregnancy. “I felt weak and tired all the time and when they checked my weight, which I was told was very low, I was immediately given nutritious foods,” said Rizzie.

Rizzie believes she could have lost her life. “It is always hard to find the right foods and eat healthy when you are pregnant out of wedlock. The health workers are constantly paying visits to us, teaching us how to make alternative healthy meals and also ensuring that we properly prepare the porridge prepared with nutritious food, that we receive from the health centre. If it weren’t for that support I would have died,” she said.

The nutritious food Rizzie is mentioning is highly fortified blended food through WFP’s Supplementary Feeding programme thanks to the support of Irish Aid. With this support, WFP is treating moderate acute malnutrition among pregnant women, new mothers and young children, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to the long-term effects of undernutrition.

Rizzie dropped out of school after getting pregnant but she dreams of becoming a teacher one day. Although she stopped school in Standard 5 she wants to go back and eventually become a primary school teacher. “I want to teach other girls and boys from my community and be independent,” she says, determined.

WFP has been supporting the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) and Nutrition Care Support and Treatment (NCST) programmes in Dedza and Nkhata Bay districts with support from Irish Aid since 2012. WFP’s support covers the treatment of acute malnutrition, micronutrient supplementation and social behaviour change communication. The programme continues to achieve remarkable results, with the cure rate being at 89.2 percent; mortality rate at 0.5 percent, and the default rate at 5.8 percent.