The faces of change: Improving nutrition in Zambia
Jul 25, 2017
By Jacquelyn Wright, Vice President, Partnerships for Global Change with CARE Canada
As our truck slows down on a narrow, dusty road, branches brush along the sides of the car transporting me to a different way of life. I begin to hear singing in the distance and as we get closer, there is a group of women in brightly coloured clothing clapping and dancing together on the road beside us. Their smiles are contagious – immediately, I feel happy, welcomed, excited. I can’t wait to meet these women and the little ones they carry on their hips and their backs, and see firsthand how they’ve changed this community from being undernourished to strong and healthy.
It’s March 2017, and I’m visiting CARE’s country office in Zambia for about one week to see the work that the team there is doing around nutrition, particularly for women and children in villages in Northern and Eastern Zambia, where CARE is working alongside the local government.
Children under two years old are particularly at risk of being malnourished in these areas and are prone to what we call stunting – which means that they are not getting enough food, vitamins and other nutrients at the right stages of life, and therefore don’t develop or grow as they should. Our work also focuses on ensuring that pregnant and lactating women get the nutritional resources and education they need to in order to have healthy pregnancies and feed their newborns.
One of the biggest challenges people in Zambia face – and in many of the areas we are working in all over the world – is access to water. Either the water is not clean, is too far away, or is just not available. There is also a lack of knowledge about how to introduce more nutritious foods to peoples’ diets so that they are getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to really thrive. Enter our staff at CARE Zambia.
I went to a community where the nutrition program has been going on for about 18 months, where we were greeted by a group of very excited women who were signing and dancing. They wanted to show us what they’d learned, the food they’d grown, and how they were able to feed their now thriving babies. It was so exciting to see. They took us on a tour of their crops and showed us how they plant them to protect them from pests and climate issues, such as drought. They showed us how they prepare the food and that they pay a lot of attention to proper hygiene. They designed a really neat handwashing station using just a stick, some string and a bucket which allows you to wash your hand without touching anything and spreading germs.
One of the most inspiring things I saw was how much the children really like the food. They make porridge with groundnuts or peanuts for protein and they add in things like greens for extra nutrients. When the greens are harvested during the rainy season when they are abundant, the women then dry them so they can use them throughout the dry season.
Hunger and malnutrition is the greatest barrier preventing people from truly thriving, and more often than not, it is linked to poverty and gender inequality. That’s why, thanks to the support of the Government of Canada and Canadians, CARE is so focused on addressing the root causes of hunger and malnutrition and empowering people – with a focus on women and girls – to lift themselves, their families and communities out of poverty.