In Mpwapwa, mothers play a crucial role in tackling child malnutrition

Mother and Child Malnutrition - Action Against Hunger

Ester’s son, Grayson, has recovered from moderate acute malnutrition.

“When my son was ill, he would just lie there, not moving. The sun could come, the rain could come. He wouldn’t move. He would just lie there.”

Ester had no idea that her son, Grayson, was sick. “I had never heard of malnutrition,” the 24-year old mother of two children said. It is only when the community health workers came by her house that she learned her son was suffering from malnutrition, a condition that affects more than 1 in 3 children in the Mpwapwa area of Tanzania.

Grayson was referred to the Mpwapwa hospital where he spent two months due to the severity of his condition. After his release, a community health worker kept on visiting every week until, to Ester’s relief, it was confirmed that Grayson was no longer malnourished.

Action Against Hunger has been working with the Tanzanian Government to tackle malnutrition from the ground up. By providing training and resources to clinics, training community health workers, and working with mothers to improve diets and challenge social conventions, we are providing mothers and children with the knowledge they need to face this crisis head on.

Furaha has learned about the importance of a mother’s health during pregnancy.

Furaha, a mother of 4, can also attest to the difference that the program has made for mothers, the communities and, crucially, children who have survived this disease.

“This project taught me to open my mind to the threat of malnutrition and the role the mother must play during pregnancy,” she said. “For my first 3 children, I had never visited a clinic before at least 6 months into the pregnancy. But since learning about malnutrition and the role the mother’s health plays, I visited the clinic as soon as I found out I was pregnant.”

Malnutrition can begin during pregnancy; it is therefore important that the mother remains healthy. Furaha now knows that if she is ill, her child is also at risk of becoming ill.

But making these small changes has its lot of difficulties. “At first I faced challenges in the community about my decision to exclusively breastfeed my child for the first 6 months,” Furaha says. “Some people in the community don’t believe breastfeeding is enough for a child. They would say ‘please, please, please, the child is crying, give them some food.’ But I said, no. This is my child and I know what he needs. I must stand up as a mother.“

And she did so, for her own benefit and that of her daughter Donata. Furaha believes that she has been healthier because of what she has learned from the health workers and, as a result, Donata is healthier.

The problem of malnutrition is not going away. Global hunger levels have continued to rise this last year. But we believe that by integrating nutrition into public health and adopting a local approach as we’ve done in Mpwapwa, we can decrease the number of children dying due to malnutrition by half. Based upon 2019 estimates, that would be more than 1 million children, every year.