Introducing the Kenya Food and Nutrition Team

By Paul Odongo

At Feed the Children, we couldn’t do our work without the support of individuals, corporations and organizations—people like you. Your gifts help us attract and hire top-notch staff who implement our programs here and around the world—who help create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

Today we’d like you to meet the Food & Nutrition Team in Kenya.

Many people mistakenly think Food & Nutrition consists simply of providing meals to hungry kids. We do work with feeding programs in communities and schools throughout Central America, Africa and the Philippines. But the food is only a fraction of what we do. Kenya’s Food & Nutrition Team also works to train and empower parents and communities through the Care Group program.

Their work starts before a child is even born, and continues through the child’s first thousand days of life. Studies have consistently shown that these few years can be the most important period in a child’s life. What happens in those early years helps ensure whether they will grow into healthy and well-nourished children.

Through the Care Group Model, we help educate entire communities on good hygiene, nutrition, sanitation and health. We employ seven Care Group Promoters, who are each responsible for four Care Groups. These groups typically consist of ten to twelve Lead Mothers, who are volunteers and the real lifeblood of what we do.

Each Lead Mother reaches out to ten to fifteen neighbor women who are pregnant, lactating, or have a child under five years of age. These Lead Mothers meet frequently in their Care Groups to learn key messages about nutrition and caregiving, which they pass on to their communities.

DSC_0145It’s mothers training mothers, and it works.

“We began teaching this year, and the community is already energized and taking action towards some of the issues in their communities,” says Anthony Muburi, a Care Group Promoter. This teaching includes how to access nutrient-rich foods and appropriate nutrition for infants and young children. The groups also help mothers access deworming medication for children, to prevent parasites. All activities focus on reducing stunting, which can result in permanent, irreversible negative health, developmental, and well-being outcomes for the remainder of children’s lives.

“When we started the program, there was some skepticism,” says Dennis Kaunda, a supervisor. “We had to take some time to sensitize the Ministry of Health officials on this model and how we would implement it.”

Along with the Care Groups, Food & Nutrition takes a big-picture approach, working with government to advocate for policies and budgets that encourage good nutrition and foster child development. We have been pivotal in nutrition advocacy in Kajiado County, which led to the launch of the County Nutrition Action Plan in June this year. This is one our most visible achievements, and the first of its kind in Kenya. We are helping get county government and other partners involved in the fight against hunger. The action plan will provide framework and coordination for a variety of interventions, activities and programs by county government, stakeholders and partners.

We salute the Food & Nutrition team in Kenya: Clementina Ngina, the Pillar Manager; Dennis Kaunda and Japheth Kaeke, supervisors on the ground; Anthony Muburi, Deborah Nekesa, Kevin Wanyonyi, Jackline Jerotich, Mercy Nyangaresi, Gladys Gathua and Everline Ahidi, our Care Group Promoters; and Esther Komen, a Program Officer that represents the team in Kajiado.

Will you stand with these dedicated individuals? Learn more about our work in Kenya here.

 

Fighting Back Against Malnutrition in El Salvador

Many of us throw our used cardboard, glass and cans into a recycling bin without giving it a second thought.

Imagine relying on these recyclables for income so you can eat.

That’s been the situation for Sebastian, a seven-year-old living in a village about forty-five miles outside the capital of El Salvador. In communities like his, levels of malnutrition can reach almost 50%, and almost two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty. 

sebastian_el-salvador_2Many of the people in Sebastian’s village make a living any way they can: day labor, construction work, and other temporary jobs. Some of the work is seasonal; women may clean houses in the city, then work in coffee fields during harvesting season. Steady jobs are extremely rare. Sebastian’s own mother works in the capital Monday through Friday, visiting Sebastian and his older sister on weekends. Sebastian has a guardian who looks after him during the week: “The mother works very hard to get some money to cover the basic needs for these children,” she says. “I know how hard is to be a single mother, so I help her take care of her children.” Sebastian’s mother earns about $100 per month, which only covers the absolute basics.

“I miss my mother a lot,” Sebastian says, “but I know she loves me, because she works very hard for me—for love.”

Sebastian’s house is tiny, made from bamboo and pieces of wood, with sheets for doors. Though small, the house is crammed full with clothes and items the family has collected over the years that they sell along with recyclables for a little extra money. Meals consist of beans and tortillas, plus vegetables, rice, and eggs when things are going well. Sebastian and his sister are fortunate—they eat three meals a day—but the food lacks the essential nutrients for growing children.

And good nutrition is important to Sebastian. Like many boys his age, he loves football games with his friends and playing with his dog “Dogui.” But he’s also up at 5 a.m. every morning to haul water from the well, among other chores. He tells us he wants to be a firefighter so he can help families in need. Even at his young age, he knows how important a healthy diet is for a healthy body, so his dreams can become reality.

Feed the Children has been partnering with the mothers of Sebastian’s village since 2014, cooking and serving nutritious meals each weekday through the Feeding Center. About a hundred children are fed each day in a fully equipped kitchen with tables and benches. Feed the Children also provides children ages six and up with medicine to eliminate intestinal parasites.

Food and medical care are important, but they’re only the beginning. We also provide training and support as the village improves its livelihoods. We’ve offered courses in greenhouse fertilizer and how to create a tilapia hatchery so the community can increase its income and make the tough climb out of poverty.

“I feel blessed because you are a big help for my mother,” Sebastian tells us. We can continue to help Sebastian, and even more children like him, through your continued support. Donating is easy and makes a huge impact. Join our work today.

 

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.

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.

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.

Making a Difference, Step by Step

At Feed the Children, we’re passionate about the community development work we do around the world. It’s gratifying to partner with leaders within a community, identifying the areas of greatest need and working together to implement solutions.

It’s also tremendously challenging. Helping lift a community out of poverty takes years, and it takes a variety of approaches. It’s a series of small steps.

Take Abdallah, a fourteen year old living in a remote area of Tanzania. We’ve made great progress there since getting involved in 2013—but there’s lots more to do. And with your help, we’re committed to partnering with his village for the long haul.

Abdallah lives with his mother, three siblings, and two cousins in the coastal region of Tanzania. The air is humid, but the sun is scorching hot. The road leading to his home is dusty and lined with long grass as well as coconut and mango trees.

Abdallah’s family lives in a small house, with a roof made of dried coconut tree leaves and walls of locally-made red bricks. There’s no electricity or running water, which is typical for the town. The family has access to a pit latrine not far from the house.

The community depends on subsistence farming for their food, buying household items like sugar and tea in the local shops. Most people in the community are not employed—they do casual jobs like home construction.

Sofia, Abdallah’s mother, was only able to attend school through the second grade. She is now a peasant farmer who grows cassava, vegetable, and peas for the family’s use, and makes money by tilling other people’s farms. She earns about $2.30 US each day.

Sofia is proud that she’s been able to feed the family at least one meal a day, but feels sad that it’s often not more than that. The family meal is typically at night and consists of Ugali (a solid mixture of corn flour & water) with vegetables or beans. Occasionally the harvest is good enough that the family enjoys three meals—but that’s a rare luxury.

Feed the Children’s first entry point to the community was in 2013. We began providing mid-morning porridge to every child in school. The porridge is formulated to be filling and full of vitamins to ensure that kids receive essential nutrients. For children like Abdallah, this may be the first meal they eat that day.

We’ve also helped outfit the kids in the village with shoes provided by TOMS, with school supplies and textbooks, and with a rainwater harvesting system. Before construction of the system, kids like Abdallah would carry a 5-liter container of water to school every day for their use.

According to the head of the school, the transformation has been remarkable. The children now have increased motivation to attend school regularly, and they are concentrating in class, completing school, and moving on to high school.

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Abdallah is growing well and it looks like he will be a very tall boy, according to his mother. He likes to study and his favorite subject is science. He also adores football and dreams of becoming a professional football player. “The porridge Abdala gets in school is important,” his mother says, “because I think when he is in class, he can listen to what the teacher is saying. He is also happy and active and plays his football without worrying about hunger.”

Abdallah’s on his way to a better life. But the work isn’t done.

For example, the textbooks we’ve provided are a good start, but there aren’t enough for the kids to take home and study on their own. The rainwater system helps, but the tank only holds 15,000 liters—good for about two months unless the rains are abundant.

Teachers have begun dreaming about a safe, fenced area for the kids to play, and have asked Feed the Children for help with balls, goals and other sports equipment.

We are committed to Abdallah’s community, and want to make those dreams a reality. With your support, we can do just that. Learn more about our work in Tanzania, and make a gift to support children like Abdallah.

 

Helping Kids Thrive: A Story from Guatemala

Many of us are accustomed to taking out loans for big expenses:
A home.
A car.
College tuition.

But imagine having to take out a loan for your child’s school supplies.

That’s the economic reality for many people around the world.

Juana is a four year old in Guatemala. She’s too young for school, but her three older siblings all attend.

What’s even more significant is that the parents are going into debt in order to educate their two daughters, in a culture in which many families don’t allow their girls to go to school. It’s seen as an unnecessary expense in a culture in which girls are raised to get married and keep the home. Juana’s parents want their girls to have opportunity and self-sufficiency.

Juana’s village is a picture of contrasts. It’s a beautiful site near a lake in the middle of a dormant volcano. The ancient Maya settlements make it a popular tourist destination. Luxury hotels and fancy amenities clash with local living conditions; the indigenous communities around the lake struggle to maintain their quality of life in a region with few public services and poor infrastructure.

The economy in the village is centered around coffee and fishing, with the women creating beaded jewelry for the tourism industry. It’s a meager and unstable economic situation for the residents there. Juana’s father is 30 and never attended school. He works as a day laborer; depending on the month, he works picking coffee, avocados, or local fruit on land owned by wealthier families. During months when work is scarce, he supplements his income doing handicrafts or odd jobs for his neighbors. Juana’s mother has a first-grade education but had to drop out to help her family around the house.

Juana’s parents do their best to put food on the table for their growing children, but meals are usually lacking in variety and nutrients. The most common meal is black beans, tortillas and wild greens that they find growing in the coffee plantation. “My children are used to this life,” Juana’s mother says, “but I feel bad when they want to eat a second helping of food and I have no more to give them.”

Because the family has so little extra income, the children are used to wearing the same clothes throughout the week. The children use cheap plastic sandals bought at the market, which break quickly. Juana is underweight and gets sick often with diarrhea, stomachaches and vomiting. Still, Juana is a calm and easy-going child, and she likes to play with stuffed animals and dolls. She can entertain herself in the shade of the coffee trees near her house.

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Juana deserves a chance to thrive. It’s what her parents want for her, and what we want for her as well.

Feed the Children has been supporting children through child sponsorship in the village since October of 2012. These children receive a backpack with school supplies every year, which many families would not be able to afford otherwise. These are the supplies that used to put the family into debt each year—it used to take months to pay off the loan. Now the kids have what they need, and the parents can set aside money for other necessities.

Feed the Children also supports a feeding program in the community, in which every registered child comes to eat lunch at mid-day. Not only is the food more filling and nutritious than what Juana would eat at home, it allows families to save a little money and use more of their income to provide healthier meals at breakfast and dinner. “My children are always excited to go to the feeding program for lunch,” Juana’s mother says. “The food is more complete there and healthier. They are happy to be part of this program.”

Sponsored children also receive two pairs of TOMS shoes every year, which represents a large savings for the parents as they don’t have to replace their children’s shoes as often, and means that the children’s feet are protected every day.

Finally, Feed the Children in partnership with Vitamin Angels has begun to support the community with deworming pills, Vitamin A supplementation and multivitamins every six months. Children like Juana often drink contaminated water and lack good hygiene practices like hand washing with soap. As a result they can suffer endemic parasitic infections, which don’t allow their bodies to absorb important nutrients. The medication provided by Vitamin Angels helps break this cycle and helps reduce malnutrition and stunting.

Juana’s community still needs a lot of support. Family or community gardens could be a source of extra income as well as provide needed nutrients to the limited diet; and targeted village loan programs could help families start other production projects to grow their income as well. The community urgently needs water and sanitation infrastructure improvements to reduce the incidence of water-borne diarrheal illness; and hygiene education to support healthy habits.

However, the support that Feed the Children has provided so far has been a strong start and has shown the families here what they can achieve if they work together. The work continues.

Thank you to everyone who makes our work possible. To learn more about our work in Guatemala, click here.

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.