|© UNICEF Mozambique/2008/ Machiana|
|‘Model Mothers’ demonstrate how to prepare a fortified meal for children at the Lumbo health centre on Ilha de Mocambique.|
By Thierry Delvigne-Jean
NAMPULA, Mozambique, 22 August 2008 – It is mid-morning in Ilha de Moçambique, a small island off the coast of Nampula Province. Anabela Muchuza, a nutrition technician, makes her rounds in the mother-and-child ward of the island’s main health centre. The giggles of a baby girl draw her attention to the back of the room.
Suhura Vasco has brought her daughter Muaziza to the ward because she is losing weight. “She wasn’t growing properly,” says Ms. Vasco.
Like approximately 24 per cent of children under the age of five in Mozambique, Muaziza is underweight for her age. (Some 41 per cent also suffer stunted growth due to inadequate diet.) Like so many other children, her condition is due partially to inadequate access to nutritional education.
“Many mothers don’t know how to prepare a nutritious meal; that’s why nutritional education is a fundamental part of our national nutrition programme,” explains Ms. Muchuza.
Mothers teach mothers
After her rounds, Ms. Muchuza heads for the nearby Lumbo Health Centre. Many mothers with their young children are already queuing in front of the main building.
In the shade of the courtyard, a group of 'Model Mothers' are beginning a demonstration, led by Rosa Ernesto. Ms. Ernesto has been a midwife in the mother-and-child unit at this health centre for the past 12 years.
Model Mothers groups are composed of volunteers who agree to teach other mothers good nutrition habits. The approach is part of a community-outreach strategy aimed at improving nutritional practices in rural areas.
“We show mothers how to make the best use of foods that they can easily find here in the market, such as eggs, groundnuts, maize, flour, vegetables, sugar, salt, local fruit and others,” explains Ms. Ernesto.
Need for interventions
The recent increase in food prices is likely to exacerbate any problems by forcing vulnerable households to buy more affordable but less nutritious food. This will result in higher levels of vitamin and mineral deficiency, particularly among young children.
In response, UNICEF has invested an additional $3 million dollars in support of the government’s nutrition programme, with the goal of scaling up therapeutic and supplementary feeding interventions in collaboration with other UN agencies and national partners.
Emidio Machiana contributed to this story.