A local recipe to fight malnutrition

The 4 star meal in South Kivu

Frederik Lerneryd
Démonstration culinaire
23 October 2017

Francine Aksanti, 21 years old, is well hearing. In the middle of a group of women, she is following, in a relaxed athmosphere, a cooking demonstration on “four star meal” at the Bitobolo II health centre, south west of the city of Bunyakiri in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mother of twins (Songa and Muganza), Francine doesn’t understand why her babies have been constantly losing weight over the last six months. Worried, the young mother took her twins to the Bitobolo II health centre. The medical diagnosis showed that the children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. 

We eat cassava leaves with fufu every day 

Une mère allaitant ses deux enfants

Songa and Muganza were admitted to the outpatient therapeutic nutrition unit and received nutritional supplement foods. After four weeks, Songa and Muganza were gradually putting on weight.

Their mother continues to take them every week to the preschool surgery so that she can better monitor their growth. It’s here that she discovered, along with other nursing mothers, how to make “four star meal”: a dish made with local products and recipes to feed children without having to spend a lot of money.

Les aliments pour préparer la bouillie aux 4 étoile

“It’s a combination of different types of food which is meant to bring the micronutrients necessary for a child’s proper development. The first star is cereals such as boiled sorghum flour to which peanut paste is added as the second star. The third star is bananas and finally eggs yolks as the fourth. All these ingredients are affordable for almost everyone here” explained Dr Emery Lukaka, nutritionist from Médecins d’Afrique, partner of UNICEF.

Like Francine, most families in Bunyakiri produce their own food. But ignorance of good culinary practices, the weight of tradition, the multiple displacements of the population associated with the low purchasing power of households mean that the diet of these families is little or not diversified. Adults and young children are subjected to the same diet which often monotonous and poor quality, leading to the children becoming malnourished. This low diet also reduces parents’ ability to fight childhood diseases.

La zone de santé de Bunyakiri, au nord-ouest de la province du Sud-Kivu

In the Bunyakiri health zone, North West of the South Kivu province, seven in every 10 children suffer from chronic malnutrition and half of all children in this zone suffer from acute malnutrition. To break the intergenerational cycle of chronic malnutrition in this health zone, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Word Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have set up in 2015, with the financial support of the Switzerland, an integrated project to fight malnutrition.