Teaching the way to a healthier future in Zambia

By Marnie Davidson, International Development and Global Health Program Manager for CARE Canada

Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.

Susan Chama is the embodiment this mantra – and she’s spreading knowledge beyond herself to her entire community and the next generation.

I had the pleasure of meeting this inspiring and vibrant woman on my most recent trip to Zambia in the spring of 2016.

Susan loves teaching – whether it’s the primary students she works with daily or the group of men and women in her local Ward Nutrition Coordinating Committee.

Many developing countries face a crisis when it comes to proper nutrition with young children being particularly vulnerable. In fact, worldwide, 45% of deaths of children under 5 are caused by malnutrition. Thanks to organizations like CARE and the SUN Fund however, learning about nutrition and adopting simple changes has made a huge difference for the people in communities like Susan’s.

Teaching nutrition isn’t new to Susan. She has always had a passion for educating her young students in the small village in the Chinsali District of Zambia.

Susan was given the opportunity to combine her love of teaching with her passion for nutrition in 2015 when the SUN Fund, supported by CARE, came to her ward. Since she had already been a nutrition champion in the community, Susan was selected to be secretary of the Ward Nutrition Coordinating Committee.

As secretary, Susan teaches other members of the committee – who are farmers, traditional leaders and community development workers – about nutrition. What exactly does this mean? Among other practices, Susan stresses the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, as well as complimentary feeding for children under 2 years old. Complimentary feeding means adding additional nutrition-rich ingredients to young children’s meals to increase their nutrient intake, such as adding groundnut to porridge.

“People in the village just use traditional knowledge, they don’t have anything else,” says Susan. “You need to go in and teach them and change their ways of thinking. It’s about thinking how to approach people and putting their needs first.”

People in Susan’s community have embraced learning about nutrition and understand that that the first 1000 days of a child’s life – from conception to a child’s second birthday – are critical for lifetime health and well-being. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are being cared for in the community by their husbands and friends, when they had previously been discriminated against and forced to do hard labour. Women would be carrying water or fuel and the men would simply walk behind. Now women are being taken care of.

“You see people changing and are happy they are learning,” says Susan who can see that children, mothers and her entire community is becoming healthier, stronger and happier. “And the people really like it.”

Help communities like Susan’s learn more about nutrition so they can lead happier, healthier lives.