American singer/songwriter Katy Perry witnesses UNICEF’s work to fight chronic malnutrition in Madagascar
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
ANDRORANGA VOLA, Madagascar, 11 June 2013 – "So, if we have rice, what can we add to it?" asks Angeline Volefero, a heath worker in the village of Androranga Vola, just a few km in Madagascar's east coast. "How about meat? And then some zucchini?"
Ms. Volefero is leading one of her regular weekly nutrition classes for a half a dozen women and children. Today, she is also showing special guest American singer and songwriter Katy Perry how she is working to beat chronic malnutrition.
"It's not about not having food," says Ms. Volefero. "We have all we need. It is about combining it properly. Here – we show the women how to cook the things we talk about in our classes – and put them together right."
Ms. Perry was in Madagascar in April visiting UNICEF projects and learning about the challenges facing children in this tropical island country.
"Madagascar has the sixth highest chronic malnutrition rate in the world," explains UNICEF Deputy Representative for Madagascar Sara Bordas Eddy. "One in two children are suffering from this here – that means 1.5 million children are affected, and usually this means that their physical and mental development is impaired."
The solution to chronic malnutrition is not expensive, but it requires critical timing. UNICEF Madagascar has made this fight a priority, and together with partners is working with 6,500 health centres throughout the country to educate pregnant mothers on nutrition, as well as assisting breastfeeding mothers and children up to 2 years of age in eating a balanced diet.
"I always knew what a breastfeeding mother eats is important, but here in this village, I see they take it very seriously," says Ms. Perry. "They are showing women how to combine foods properly, and they even have access to vitamin supplements to ensure that the mothers and babies can fight disease better."
The vitamin supplement, called 'Zaza Tomady', or 'Dynamic Children', is a newly developed powder supplement that provides 15 essential vitamins and minerals to a meal.
"It's amazing because the powder can just be sprinkled on your food, and doesn't have to be mixed with water first," explains Ms. Perry.
In a country with minimal access to clean water, that the supplement does not requiring mixing is essential for proper and continued use.
"Come with me," says Ms. Volefero to Ms. Perry. "I want to show you something."
Ms. Volefero excitedly takes Ms. Perry out of the health centre and around the back to a little shack with a single fire on the ground and a bubbling cast-iron pot sitting in the coals. The porridge has beans and vegetables, a complete nutritional meal.
"I've been coming here for three months with my little boy," says Modestine. "We've been using the powder regularly, and you can see he is looking stronger."
"There is so much happening in this village," said Ms. Perry. "So much education and effort for these little guys to grow up to be healthy children!"