Mothers Fight the “Disease With No Name” in Tanzania

Disease survival mothers - Action Against Hunger

In Tanzania, we help to improve maternal and child nutrition for more than 211,000 children and adolescent mothers in four rural districts. We are scaling up proven interventions: providing micronutrient supplements, treating acute malnutrition in communities and at health centres, and fostering mother-to-mother support groups, thereby laying the foundation for children to achieve their full potential as adults.

One of our photographers visited Mpwapwa, an area where more than 1 in 3 children is malnourished, to hear the difference our programs have meant for mothers, their communities, and most importantly, the children who have survived “the disease with no name.”


Merina and Richard - Action Against Hunger

“In my village, we know how important it is to provide a healthy diet for our children, but that can be expensive, particularly if you rely on the land and don’t have a lot of money.

Every mother wants to provide their child with a healthy diet, but how are we supposed to do this? When people talk about the five food groups, what are they? Before we thought perhaps the foods we needed were bananas, mangos, and oranges, but these can be expensive and must be bought from a market.

This program has opened our eyes and taught us how we can provide a balanced diet, despite the challenges we face.

The food our children need is all around us.”


Laheli and Maiko - Action Against Hunger

“When my son was sick, I suffered terribly. I visited different hospitals and nobody knew what was wrong with him. In this district there wasn’t any knowledge or treatment of malnutrition.

Maiko suffered for so long and it was heartbreaking to watch. He had rashes on his skin, was very weak, and he lost weight. He had so many ailments; he couldn’t even walk. He would just sit there, not moving.

When this program was introduced, they quickly diagnosed my son with malnutrition. He was treated for two months and I received counseling on how I could support him.

Getting this diagnosis meant I was no longer afraid. I knew Maiko would survive. The diagnosis brought me hope.”


Damari and Rose - Action Against Hunger

“Thankfully, my Rose has never suffered from malnutrition, but it is something I have witnessed in my community. My neighbor’s children would get sick all the time, but we never knew anything about malnutrition.

The doctors would do their best to treat the children, but there wasn’t any treatment for malnutrition at the hospitals. Thankfully, that has now changed.

Now the children can get treatment, but more importantly, we know how to provide more nutritious meals to help our children avoid illness. Before, a mother might leave in the morning to work in the fields and prepare a maize porridge to get their children through the day. The child would be full, but wouldn’t get the nutrients they need.

Now we understand how important it is that our children get a varied diet, and mothers know how simple it is to make meals more nutritious. Simple things like adding fruit and vegetables to porridge.

Now every mother appreciates how important nutrition is to keep their children healthy.”


Sofia and Musa - Action Against Hunger

“This program has brought me closer to my child and I think it has made me a more responsible mother. That is why I think it is important that I share these lessons with other mothers in my community.

I have three children, but when you compare Musa with my older children, the difference is obvious.

I’ve learned about the dangers of malnutrition and the role I can play to ensure my children don’t succumb to this disease. I also know how important my child’s diet is for their development.

Before, I believed that two big meals would be enough for my children. Now I know that it isn’t just about having enough food, but the food must be nutritious. Now my children eat very well and they are getting the five groups of food they need.”


Mariam and Sampson - Action Against Hunger

“I know now that my Samson was suffering from malnutrition. When he was ill, he would just sleep, and when he wasn’t sleeping, he was crying. He was very weak.

At the time I knew nothing of malnutrition. My other children had never suffered or been sick like Samson.

Life is not easy for us. I would normally prepare porridge in the morning for my children, though I must confess I didn’t know about the role nutrients played in making my child healthy. I think that is one of the reasons that my son suffered.

Samson was one of the first children to receive treatment for malnutrition in our village. Since his treatment, he has never had to revisit the doctor. He is doing really well now, he is growing.

Now my Samson is a very charming boy. He wanders around the village with no problems at all. He is doing really well.”


Yunis and Gloria - Action Against Hunger

“My baby is only nine months old. My older child is three and I think, knowing what I know now, that she was suffering from malnutrition.

With my older child, I was feeding her porridge a few days after birth. That is the tradition in our village. We didn’t know that it was bad for the child. He would cry and so we fed him. This is what we have always done, even my mother did not know how important breastfeeding is for our children.

With this child, I only breastfed her for the first six months. Now she is older, and I know what I must feed her to ensure she gets the nutrients and vitamins she needs. Because of this, she hasn’t suffered like my older child.

I think this program will save a lot of children. Before we never knew why our children were getting ill, and as parents, we were suffering.”


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