Care Group Training Improves the Confidence of Members to Improve Health of Children
Date: October 2017
Place: Mangwe District (Kwite Village, Ward 1)
Rebecca Nondo is a 33- year-old mother of three living in the Mangwe district of Zimbabwe, where access to year-round access to food is limited. In the Matabeleland South province, where Mangwe is located, 44 percent of the population experience food insecurity during the peak hunger period of February to March. In addition, 2.8 percent of children under five in Mangwe experience acute malnutrition. The USAID-funded Amalima Program aims to improve the food security of households in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe by providing a monthly ration of corn-soy blend and fortified vegetable oil to beneficiaries like Rebecca. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children-under-two are eligible to receive the supplementary ration as part of the program’s efforts to reduce stunting and malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s development.
Amalima also promotes improved maternal and child health, and nutrition through Care Groups – community-level meetings led by a trained volunteer and attended regularly by eight to ten caregivers to discuss issues including infant and young child feeding practices, the importance of antenatal care visits, exclusive breastfeeding infants during the first six months of life, supplementary feeding for children 6-24 months, and types of locally-available, nutrient-rich foods that are part of a healthy diet.
Rebecca decided to join her local Care Group after being approached by a Care Group Volunteer at an Amalima distribution. She was pregnant with her third child, and had never received formal instructions about how to raise a healthy child. She was especially interested in learning about proper feeding practices for her young children of varying ages. This was a particular point of stress for Rebecca; she didn’t feel confident about what type of food was best to provide, or the right portion size of a meal. Sometimes she would wait until her child was crying to know that they were hungry.
Through participation in Care Group activities, Rebecca learned about meal preparation and feeding schedules for her children. She frequently uses the Amalima recipe book, which was created to help caregivers prepare diverse and nutritious meals for her family. The recipes feature locally available vegetables, which she sources mostly from her home garden. Recipes also specify preparation times, quantities of individual ingredients needed, and how much each recipe will produce.
Rebecca’s participation in the Care Group has impacted the whole family. Rebecca’s father-in-law, Luke Ndolvu, has become an advocate for her participation in the Care Group because he clearly recognizes the improvement in her ability to care for and respond to the needs of her children. While explaining the impact of the Care Group, he explains, “If a child is not well, [she] now knows how to respond.” Gloria Dube, Rebecca’s Care Group leader, makes regular home visits to the household where she works with the other family members as well to encourage the adoption of new, improved health practices that as easily implemented at home. Rebecca’s father-in-law now also feels capable of caring for the children when she is away, and her cousin has applied some of the practices to her own family to raise healthier children.