Sanitation in Africa, Progress and Challenges.

Toilets are an important and essential part of our everyday lives, whether at home, at work or traveling. While access to toilets may seem like an obvious concept to many, especially for those who live in the global north, this is not so obvious in many communities in the global south, especially those in rural settings as well as those who live in urban slums and informal settlements.

There are people who go about their daily lives without access to toilets and who must compromise their dignity and privacy when nature calls. In some areas like the Kibera slums in Nairobi, most of the residents use ‘flying toilets’ – a plastic bag used to collect human feces since they do not have access to toilets. The filled and tied plastic bag is then discarded by throwing it far away or in a ditch or by the roadside.

Some communities in rural areas defecate in the open–they must go out in the bushes or hidden fields to relieve themselves. The practice is mostly rampant in poor communities that do not prioritize toilets.

At Feed the Children, we know that a lack of toilets leads to myriad serious sanitation problems. We understand exposure to fecal matter can lead to a long list of diseases and can cause infection; it also provides a breeding ground for parasites which affect many populations. We also understand that besides reducing infections, the sanitary importance of toilets offers an increased sense of dignity.

That is why we work to ensure children live in healthy environments. We do this by working closely with key partners to keep children free of disease through life-saving sanitation programs.

In Africa, we promote appropriate hygiene practices and health-seeking behavior among communities where we work. We do this in two ways; through the Care Group Model and Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).

The Care Group model is designed to teach household-level behaviors to prevent maternal and child malnutrition and death. Feed the Children has used this model successfully in the Kibera slums.

While the Care Group Model works well in urban slums, the CLTS approach has worked well in our rural populations. CLTS focusses on ending open defecation as a first significant step and entry point to changing behavior.

Both CLTS and Care Group Model concentrate on the whole community rather than on individual behavior. They focus on igniting a change in health and sanitation behavior through social awakening that is stimulated by individuals from within the community.

Through these approaches, communities are able to adopt a range of behaviors such as stopping open defecation; ensuring that everyone uses a hygienic toilet; washing hands with soap at different critical times; and creation of household handwashing facilities among other key essential hygiene actions.

In Kibera slums, Feed the Children uses the Care Group model to promote essential hygiene actions with an aim to create individual and community behavior change in health, nutrition and hygiene.

For the past year, Feed the Children has taught communities in Kibera about safe disposal of feces, so that it does not contaminate the environment, food, or water. The three slum villages where Feed the Children has been working have been able to locate sanitation facilities, they have taught their neighbors about the importance of safe feces disposal to protect their own health.

Achieving Open Defecation Free Environments

In Malawi, our hygiene and sanitation programs using CLTS have witnessed significant changes that have been recognized by the government. We have been using CLTS as a first step and entry point to changing behavior.

We start by enabling people to do their own sanitation profile through appraisal, observation and analysis of their practices of open defecation and the effects they have. This often kindles a desire to stop open defecation and clean up their neighborhood.

Since 2010, the government of Malawi with funding from the Global Sanitation Fund has been implementing hygiene and sanitation interventions across the country with the purpose of making Malawi an Open Defecation Free (ODF) zone.

In December 2015, Feed the Children in Malawi through its work under the Global Sanitation Fund ushered the country’s third Traditional Authority into an Open Defecation Free status. Since 2010, Traditional Authority Chapinduka was the third to be declared ODF in the country. The success was credited to the work that Feed the Children and the District Council were doing in the area.

Apart from this community, Feed the Children has worked with several schools in the northern region, Rumphi district to ensure that they have sufficient toilets to cater for the huge student population. One of the school that Feed the Children successfully trained on CLTS is Chivungululu Primary school that had their toilets constructed by community members.

For more than five years, our office in Malawi has reached out to more than 82,038 community members with CLTS messages, we have seen 190 villages living in ODF zones and most importantly, and we have seen behavior change where community members take collective responsibility to ensure that each homestead has their own toilet that is properly constructed, covered and has a handwashing facility.

In the coming months, Feed the Children, Africa region will continue using CLTS in rural communities to end open defecation. We have and will continue working in partnership with other non-governmental organizations, corporates and the government to empower children and their communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Helping Babies Thrive

At Feed the Children, we know that parents, particularly mothers, are the critical link to helping kids be healthy and well nourished, especially in the early months and years of life.

That’s why this week, Feed the Children’s office in Kenya joins the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Dietetic Unit and other partners to mark World Breastfeeding Week.

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from August 1 to 7 to promote exclusive breastfeeding for newborns during the first six months of life. Experts say that exclusive breastfeeding yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients to children, helping protect from disease, and fostering growth and development.

“Breastfeeding is the single most important indicator for reducing the child mortality rate up to 80%,” says Clementina Ngina, Feed the Children’s Food & Nutrition Pillar Manager. “It is also one of the five indicators set during the World Health Assembly which countries likes ours are working hard to improve. Feed the Children is promoting exclusive breastfeeding as part of this effort.”

Feed the Children has long been involved in advocating breastfeeding of newborns and infants. Through our Care Group model, our staff is able to train a large number of volunteers who then work within communities to promote healthy nutrition for children, including breastfeeding.

Food stuffs classified according to their nutritional groups during the launch of Feed the Children International’s new logo in Lilongwe March 26, 2015. PHOTO FEED THE CHILDREN/AMOS GUMULIRA
Food classified according to their nutritional groups.

Our work is based on studies showing how critical the first 1000 days of a child’s life can be. We know that giving attention to a child’s health and nutritional needs during that period will help create a lasting impact in their lives. Our Care Group volunteers teach best practices to new mothers and expectant women to help them raise healthy and well-nourished children.

Through these Care Group forums, Feed the Children emphasizes the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Mothers and mothers-to-be are taught that breastmilk has the right proportion of nutrients to help babies develop well.

To commemorate World Breastfeeding Week, Feed the Children Kenya has worked with the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Dietetic Unit in partnership with members of the Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) technical working group. Feed the Children is a member of this working group.

During this week’s event, two educational materials are being launched, the National MIYCN counseling cards and the Baby-Friendly Community Initiative. Feed the Children actively participated in the development of both of these documents, and they will be a vital tool as our Care Groups continue to create a world in which babies can not just survive, but thrive.

Day of the African Child 2016 – Protecting all children’s rights

June 16 marks Day of the African Child (DAC). A day to recall the 1976 uprisings in Soweto, when a protest by black school children in South Africa took to the streets.

The children protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. 

To honor the memory of those killed, and the courage of all those who marched, DAC presents an opportunity to focus on the work of those committed to the rights of children on the continent, to consolidate their efforts in addressing the obstacles for realizing these rights.

DSC_0283The theme for this year’s DAC is “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights.” This theme honors the efforts to elevate child protection in conflict areas in Africa as well as the protection and preservation of life and well-being of African children.

 

Children for Life (C4L)

To further celebrate DAC, more than 1,000 children came together for a graduation ceremony at a primary school in Nairobi. The children, drawn from 30 schools located in the urban slums of Nairobi, have been trained on life skills as a critical response to the challenges facing young people today.

Each of the 30 schools recruits 20 – 50 students between the ages of 10 – 14 years old. They form a C4L club with two teachers who guide them during meetings.

Feed the Children holds hourly training sessions with these pupils twice in a month.  The club members, after undergoing the life skills sessions, become peer educators and disseminate the same messages to their peers. The children are helped to be assertive, good communicators and generally build strong characters that can say no to the vices that affect their access to education. These activities are meant to address the challenges of early marriages, early pregnancies, sexual violations, drugs and substance abuse amongst others.

All the pupils are then encouraged to use and share the same information with their neighbor children and practice what they have learned at home, at school and in their surrounding communities.ClDwcViVYAIb4Pu

Some of the topics taught include: Healthy behaviors, body changes, common illness and mapping health services, HIV & AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, stigma and discrimination, care and support, understanding mixed messages and peer pressure, planning for your future, career, refusing drugs & alcohol, etc.

Since the inception of C4L, our team has seen an increase in knowledge among the peer educators, improved decision making and behavior change.

Working Together Behind the Scenes: Meet the Malawi Warehouse Team

Feed the Children in Malawi is widely known for its feeding programs that take place across the country in more 840 community-based care centers and orphanages, as well as pediatric wards in targeted clinics.

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Every month, with support from Nu Skin–a longtime partner of Feed the Children–the organization receives a donation of at least 83,000 packets (2kg) of VitaMeal porridge to distribute to children in various communities across Malawi. In addition, Feed the Children also receives packets of water purifier each month, and pairs of TOMs shoes every six months.

These vital supplies need to be distributed to a variety of sites, which is where the warehouse team comes in.

These dedicated individuals are responsible for storing the supplies at the Feed the Children office in Malawi, then packing and loading them for delivery throughout the central and northern regions of the country. The five-member team consists of four men who are responsible for loading, and a woman who serves as warehouse supervisor and team leader.

The team works tirelessly to make sure they beat their monthly targets, thus ensuring that the needs of the children are met time and again.

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Edith Kafuwa, the warehouse supervisor, joined Feed the Children in 2009. She was there for the initial set up of the warehouse at Feed the Children in Malawi. Kafuwa is passionate about her work and is inspired by the fact that what she does has a bearing on the wellbeing of more than 80,000 children.

“Every single working day I wake up at home and travel for about 35 kilometers to get to my work place,” she says. “[I do it] for the single reason of contributing towards creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.”

When asked what it was like to work as the only female in a group of men, Kafuwa says she has learned to build a good working relationship with her team. She says teamwork is the key–when everyone is clear about their roles, they’re able to deliver results.

We’re thankful Kafuwa and the rest of her team work so diligently each and every day to make sure children have the food and nutrition they need. It takes all of us working together to lend a hand to people without life’s essentials. To give the gift of VitaMeal, check out our gift catalog.

In Recognition of Autism Awareness Month

If you happen to walk through the Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) compound on any given day, you will bump into the many children who are residents of DCC. Some of the kids might hug you, and others may shake your hand with a big smile… while others might cautiously hold your hand and sniff it several times before walking away.

Some guests at DCC are taken aback by this unusual behavior; others may wonder if the children are being rude. What they may not know is that these children have autism, and that is their way of greeting and familiarizing themselves with new people.

The DCC hosts several kids with a variety of disabilities including autism, a mental condition that is characterized by difficulty communicating, forming relationships with other people, and understanding abstract concepts. The condition is present from early childhood.

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to educate others about autism so as to promote inclusion and acceptance in the community. DCC’s Rehabilitation Coordinator, Stephen Muga, recently met with parents who had visited the DCC seeking therapy sessions for their children to talk more about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“We share information with parents, staff and community members, because most people do not know about autism,” Muga said during the meeting.“We serve a population that is vulnerable, so they do not have first-hand information about autism.”

On a daily basis, the rehabilitation unit at DCC works with autistic kids and provides occupational therapy services by guiding kids through the activities of daily living, as well as speech communication and social skills training. The team works with children on sensory integration, having them experience various sensory stimulants to help them have an adaptive response in relation to their environment.

On a monthly basis, the rehabilitation team serves about 27 kids with autism. Muga says that kids with autism have difficulty in expressive communication, social skills, and everyday activities like brushing teeth or putting on clothes. Others have problems with fine motor skills such as writing. Some cannot write but are able to speak. The rehabilitation team uses each child’s areas of strength to build upon their life skills.

Apuka (2)He adds that there are high-functioning people with autism, such as Mandela, one of the autistic kids at DCC. “Mandela is incredibly smart and his autism is not always obvious to the untrained eye,” says Muga. While Mandela does not have developmental problems and he clearly articulates himself, he rarely looks at people in the eye and he will always sniff someone’s hand when greeted.

Muga emphasizes that children with autism are very different from one another. Some kids have extreme developmental delays, while others may be extremely intelligent in academics but may avoid eye contact or grow upset to changes in routine and lack social skills.

His message to all for this month’s autism awareness is the importance of understanding that each child or person with autism needs to be treated with an understanding of who they are.

Muga’s work at the DCC are possible only through support through people like you. Donate here.

Cooking Up Hope: Meet the DCC Catering Team

Feed the Children brings together caring individuals to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We address childhood hunger by empowering children and communities to achieve self-sufficiency around the four pillars: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods. Today we salute our staff who work tirelessly to ensure that children with different needs at the organization’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) in Kenya are well fed.

The DCC has been caring for babies who have been abandoned and providing professional services and care for children with special needs since 1993. The 8-member team based at the DCC works to ensure that the children living at the center (as well as staff who take care of the young ones) do not go hungry and are well nourished.

Each team member specializes in a specific skill, which when combined, form a well-oiled machine that churns out delicious nutritious meals. Some children require special diets to address their nutritional needs, especially those who were brought in malnourished. Our team makes sure these special children have what they need as well.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 6.58.06 AMThe team is composed of a nutritionist, a specialist baker, and experienced cooks. They prepare balanced meals for resident children, staff and guests–about 150 people on a daily basis. They also prepare special meals on an as-needed basis, such as when there are events or special occasions.

Some of the staples of the DCC menu include ugali (solid mixture of water and corn flour), rice, beans, vegetables, beef, fish, and cake–and on special occasions they prepare chicken, sausage, and other items.

Redemptor Agagi, who has worked with Feed the Children for over 14 years, leads the team. She is proud of her team, which she says has never let her down. She says that, like any other system, there are minor challenges, “but nothing that stands out that we haven’t been able to take care of, and I thank the management for always supporting us.”

The team members say they enjoy working at the kitchen and that it’s been a great experience. “When someone gets hungry, that person cannot be productive. Preparing meals that they enjoy and that helps them work well gives me satisfaction,” says Florence Mwangi.

News Roundup: Special Africa Edition

For today’s roundup we are highlighting stories from our work in Africa. Read on and be inspired!

Tanzania

The dawn of 2016 brought with it good tidings for children of Masanganya Primary School in Kisarawe district: it marked the end of a four-year period of going without meals while in school. The school used to benefit from mid-morning porridge, but this was halted due to challenges that made food preparation impractical.

Early this year, Feed the Children renovated the school’s kitchen, replenished the cooking utensils and provided foodstuffs to aid in preparing mid-morning porridge for more than 400 kids in the elementary school.

Both pupils and teachers are happy with the developments. “We are very delighted that this program has resumed,” said the deputy head teacher, Deus Kimpalamba. “You can see that the children are happy to have porridge during the break. Some of them come from home without breakfast, and having to spend the whole day hungry is very hard.” The mid-morning porridge is fortified with vitamins and minerals, so it improves the nutritional status of the children in addition to reducing their hunger and keeping them in school.

Photo above: A pupil at Masanganya Primary School enjoying a cup of fortified porridge.

Uganda

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Feed the Children staff show a woman how best to hold a child when breastfeeding.

 

More than 100 mothers in Northern Uganda’s Amuru District were trained last month in infant and young child feeding. The one-day training took place at the Pabbo Health Centre in Gulu and was facilitated by Feed the Children staff and an officer in charge of the health center. The training helped breastfeeding and expectant mothers learn about infant nutrition. It focused on maternal nutrition during pre-conception and pregnancy, the importance of breastfeeding, position and attachment during breastfeeding, and an overview of HIV/AIDS and infant feeding.

The training was participatory and included demonstrations. The mothers appreciated the skills gained at the training. “I am very lucky to be here today,” said one mother. “Thank you so much Feed the Children for all the help you have offered to our community. I have benefitted a lot from this.”

Another mother spoke of her joy and asked that such trainings be expanded to reach more mothers. The training is part of Feed the Children’s Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) programs that aim to sensitize expectant and new mothers on proper nutrition and feeding of children.

Kenya

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Yikiatine Primary School Headteacher (left) walks with two scientists from ICRAF through the garden in her school during the visit.

Feed the Children and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) representatives made their first joint field visit early this month in order to follow up on a gardening project introduced to Yikiatine and Makutano primary schools in the Mwala district.

The ‘Fruiting Africa project’ is funded by ICRAF and implemented by Feed the Children. It seeks to increase wealth and health of poor farming communities through enhanced cultivation, processing, marketing and consumption of a diversity of fruits and vegetables.

Scientists from ICRAF who joined in the trip were pleased by the progress of the gardens. Dr. Katja Kehlenbeck, one of the scientists with ICRAF, expressed her delight in the development of the gardens. “We are very happy to see this. We have seen some of your projects in Kajiado do well, and we are happy with this progress.”

The visit follows a training conducted in October to sensitize members of the Schools’ Management Committees (SMCs) on the different nutritional value of various indigenous vegetables and fruits. The training also covered proper land preparation and crop management for kitchen gardens as well as environmental conservation as a key to sustainability.

The schools in turn established the kitchen gardens and grew various fruits and vegetables including mangoes, onions, spinach, kale, bananas, guavas, lemons, paw-paw and custards, among other plants. “We got to learn that these fruits that we call wild are actually healthy, and we love them a lot,” said Makutano DEB Primary School’s head teacher, Eunice Mutua. The teacher said that some vegetables are used to supplement the diets in the schools.

Malawi

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Children from Chapinduka carry placards in celebration of the attainment of the milestone.

It was a historic moment for Feed the Children and the Malawi government two months ago when Traditional Authority Chapinduka (a region of the country) was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). Since 2010, the government of Malawi has used funding from the Global Sanitation Fund to implement hygiene and sanitation interventions across the country with the purpose of making Malawi an ODF zone.

Five years down the line, two traditional Authorities in the country had been declared ODF free, and Chapinduka became the third (but the first in the Northern part of Malawi) thanks to Feed the Children’s intervention. It took Feed the Children one and a half years to achieve this milestone.

Gathering to witness the significant occasion were officials from the government of Malawi, Plan Malawi, Feed the Children staff, government officials from Rumphi district council and community members from Chapinduka. Chiefs from across Rumphi were also invited to witness the occasion and learn from their fellow chief how he made it with his subjects.

Traditional Authority Chapinduka is mountainous and only accessible by foot or boat. It has a population of slightly over 5,000 people. At the start of the project, 81% of the households had toilets and today, 98% of the households do.

Caring for the Whole Child: World Disability Day

At Feed the Children, we are committed to supporting the health of children—it’s a vital key in eliminating hunger around the world and helping kids be kids. As part of this work, the Feed the Children office in Kenya celebrated World Disability Day on December 3. We joined with Nairobi County Government, the Ministry of Health, and other non-governmental organizations to mark the day, held at Nairobi Pentecostal Church.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities began in 1992 to promote awareness and mobilize support for persons with disabilities. Events around the world draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all. The theme for this year’s event was ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities’.

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The Feed the Children office in Kenya has been providing care and protection for children living with disabilities since 1993.  Through the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, the organization provides thorough care to special needs children living at Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) and also to those living with their families in Nairobi, and Kajiado Counties.  The children living with disabilities and developmental delays have access to free occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and orthopedic services.

A child receives physical therapy from trained staff.
A child receives physical therapy from trained staff.

Through the generous support of Feed the Children sponsors, the project provides assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, calipers, and special seating aids, along with maintenance and repairs of those devices. We help put together forums to increase awareness of issues facing persons with disabilities and partner to prevent and treat various disabilities facing our communities. The project also partners with local hospitals to help children with the greatest needs undergo corrective surgeries, enabling them to live a decent and independent life.

Feed the Children also holds monthly workshops for parents who have children living with disabilities.  The workshops educate and equip parents with skills so they can help their children achieve optimal independence in activities of daily living.

To learn more about how you can sponsor a child, click here.