20 September 2016

Tanzania: Ma Scholastica's Efforts in the Fight Against Malnutrition

Dar es Salaam — "Economies are increasingly dependent on digital and higher level competences and skills. It follows our investment in "gray matter infrastructure" is perhaps the most important one we can make. In too many low-and middle income countries, children are disadvantaged before they even set foot in school because they did not have adequate early nutrition."- President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong-Kim.

The first 1000 days of a human's life from the womb, which is roughly from conception till a baby is in their second year; is where the body is building its foundation blocks. "Ensuring every child has the right start to life during these precious 1,000 days begins first and foremost with nutrition. The nutrition that we get from the food we eat early in life is a critical building block for the growth of our bodies, the development of our brains, and the health of our immune systems."- Lucy Sullivan Executive Director, 1,000 Days

"Following the stats for 2014-2015 from TGHS-Tanzania Demographic Household Survey' which came out June this year (2016). In stunting we're now at 34% whereas in 2010 we were at 42%; we've solved this problem faster than in previous years. It's those in the rural areas that are most afflicted with 'stunting'... " Dr. Vincent Assey, Assistant Director in Nutrition at the Ministry of Health in Tanzania.

As Dr Assey points out, too many of our children are set never to have fair cognitive skills or healthy lives as their brains and immune systems are impaired from malnutrition, particularly in the rural areas.

Luckily we bumped into a brave woman Scholastica Nguli, from the region of Lindi in Tanzania, who is working to change this. You see when a baby is born with malnutrition-micronutrient deficient, overweight, stunted or wasted (accounting for 5% percent of children in Tanzania). There's still a small window, till they're two years old to cure them of this problem.

As the founder of the NGO 'ROWODO-Rondo Women's Development Organisation, Scholastica since 2011, has been working to reduce infantile deaths caused by malnutrition; particularly child stunting and child wasting in the Rondo ward, of Lindi region.

"With regards to malnutrition we educate mothers, either one on one by visiting their families or by hosting talks at the maternal clinics.

Here we give information on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding after giving birth, till the baby is up to six months old. Teaching them to do away with the belief that when a child cries, as they see adults eating before they're 6 months old, means they're ready to eat foods like 'uji' or drink water, which they are not.

We also give information on the importance of feeding infants up to 2 years old, with foods that have the right nutrients. We encourage the eating of cassava, 'mbaazi', lentils like 'kunde', beans, 'choroko' and grains like 'ulezi' that are grown locally. We also try to break old myths that say, for instance that a pregnant woman shouldn't eat eggs."-Ma Scholastica Nguli.

We met Scholastica at the launch of the 'Global Nutrition Report 2016' in Dar es Salaam last month, where Hon Vice President of Tanzania Mme, Samia Suluhu was present. As well the Minster of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Hon, Ummy Mwalimu.

Scholastica was among the members of Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella of PANITA-Partnership for Nutrition in Tanzania. To be given a hearty thank you from the Vice President.

"On the issue of gender equality, we work to build on the capacities of the mother as she's the nurturer in the family...Take the mother in the village, she wakes up at 5 am with a bucket on her head going to find water, when she returns other morning chores await her. She then picks up the hoe with the baby on her back on her way to 'shamba'.

As she returns from shamba she comes with a load of 'kuni' on her head and the baby on her back. Where the pounding of 'maize' awaits her or going to the machine to grind the same, when she returns she has to make 'ugali', wash clothes truthfully this is all too much and it impairs her from concentrating on proper nutrition for her family."-Hon Vice president Mme Samia Suluku Mme Vice President here went on to emphasize the importance of the kind of work Scholastica is doing, in alleviating the burden on women in the rural areas by educating them. She further urged society to assist women with household chores, so as to enable them to prepare nutritious meals for their families.

Scholastica is really happy that she has not heard of any deaths in recent years in Rondo ward, from a child under 5 due to malnutrition.

"We got this news recently in July'16, when we visited the Chiponda Health Center and Mtene Clinic; both reported that since 2015 no deaths have come from malnutrition.

Our goals are now to see ourselves visiting more villages in the district. Every 3 months, we walk for 7 to 8 kilometres to different villages, with assistance from Mr Msafiri Wanje's office- Chiponda's District Commissioner and the Health Centres in this district, who assist in advertising our schedules for meetings with the villagers."-Scholastica Nguli

According to the Global Nutrition Report 2016, Africa loses up to 11% of its GDP due to malnutrition, while for every dollar invested in alleviating this problem. There's a $16 yield in returns. Currently the budget of 2016/17 in Tanzania allocates 500TSHS (US$ 0.23) per child for Nutrition interventions, this is short of the US$8.5 required to be on track to ending malnutrition by 2030.

Let's support the efforts of ROWODO and other CSO's in the country working to end malnutrition. By visiting panita.or.tz you can make contributions to over 250 CSO's like ROWODO spread out in various regions of Tanzania.

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