Zimbabwe, March 2014: Chipo’s story: benefitting from exclusive breastfeeding
By Richard Nyamanhindi
Five-month-old Chipo Sithole is just one of the children in Buwerimwe village who is benefitting from the partnership between UNICEF, the Ministries of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and Women, Gender and Community Development (MoWGCD) with funding from the European Commission’s (ECHO) work to promote exclusive breastfeeding in Zimbabwe.
Buwerimwe is a small village in Mutare District in Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe. It has around 500 residents and, before the collaboration between UNICEF, MoHCC and MoWGCD, it was known for its extremely high levels of infant mortality and child malnutrition. According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment (ZimVAC) Report 2013, the number of stunted children in Manicaland alone stood at a staggering 32 per cent.
Chipo’s mother, Fiona Sithole, says: “It was in the midst of these challenges that the two Ministries and UNICEF came to rescue us.”
Health is wealth
At the beginning of 2013, with funding from ECHO, residents of Buwerimwe first met representatives from UNICEF and the two ministries to design a nutrition program aimed at preventing the deterioration of nutritional status of vulnerable groups of the population in the province. This was to be achieved through the establishment of support groups and infant/young child mother pairs supported by effective Infant Young Child Feeding promotion, counseling and peer support through Village Health Workers.
Now, according to Shamiso Masamvi, a nurse at Nzvenga clinic in Mutare District - considerably fewer children in Buwerimwe are dying and, over the past 18 months, two in three lactating mothers say they have practiced exclusive breastfeeding.
Linda Mutsomba, aged 19, one of the mothers using the practice, says: “Thanks to the UNICEF and the two ministries’ community health workers, we now have better knowledge regarding our children through the support groups that were established in August 2013. We are exclusively breastfeeding our children and more and more children are surviving and more than ever the people of my village know what it means to say ‘health is wealth’.”
The villagers still face challenges with supplementary foods for children as the area has been affected by drought in the past three years, but their situation has improved dramatically. MoWGCD Community Development officer, Gabriel Jaji says: “Frequent reports of diarrhoea, dysentery, malaria and children dying are almost a thing of the past.”
This is good news for children such as Chipo, who can now look forward to a healthier future.
Informed by a Situational Analysis on the status of Women and Children’s Rights in Zimbabwe, and the conceptual framework for addressing under-nutrition, the UNICEF nutrition program has an overall goal of reducing stunting from 33 per cent in 2013 to 25 per cent by 2015. UNICEF Nutrition program, under Young Child Survival and Development (YCSD) program focusses on increasing access to, utilization of, sustainable and equitable nutrition services. The nutrition program therefore, supports delivery of high impact nutrition interventions that address the immediate causes of stunting, and actions towards creating an enabling environment for stunting reduction.
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