Tuition in nutrition

A clinic in Tanzania ushers a mother and her children towards a healthier diet — and income

Alice Maro
Oct 14, 2019 · 4 min read
A medical check-up for Happy’s 14-month old Yalumbwe. Photo: WFP/Alice Maro

In early 2018, Happy Kennethy Mbalay and her husband were expecting their third child.

He was looking for work and eventually found it — 1,000 kilometres away. So he had to move. This left pregnant Happy facing the pressure of raising their two children, aged seven and four, on her own, with all the physical and emotional challenges of a pregnancy.

The couple lived in a small two-bedroom home nestled in the hills of Buigiri in the Dodoma region of Tanzania. Happy was unable to survive with the money her husband sent back. She decided to look for other means of generating income.

District Nutrition Officer Benedictor Petro underlines the importance a balanced diet. Photo: WFP/Alice Maro

Despite being 20 weeks pregnant, the 31-year-old began going door-to-door selling clothes to people in her village. It wasn’t easy. While wowing the community with all her colourful fabrics and intricate designs, the products had few takers, leaving her unable to put nutritious foods on the table.

Happy, however, had had the foresight four weeks earlier to enroll at the Boresha Lishe nutrition project. This enabled her to attend prenatal check-ups at Buigiri Dispensary, a publicclinic supported under the project — which is cofunded by the European Union and Japan.

A basket filled with samples for a balanced diet. Photo: WFP/Zainul Mzige

On a monthly basis, Happy would receive take-home packets of nutritious flour mix fortified with important vitamins and minerals. She also received education in nutrition and counselling on feeding practices for infants. The clinic would monitor her nutritional status.

Through the monthly check-ups, Happy received the nutritional support she needed and gave birth to a healthy boy, weighing 3.7kg. (She named him Yalumbwe Emmanuel Mussa, meaning “to be praised” in the Kigogo language.)

After delivering her baby, Happy resumed her check-ups and continued to receive the nutritious flour until her baby turned six months old. Now at 14 months, Yalumbwe receives his own ration of specialized nutritious food.

Cooking demonstrations

Under the supervision of Save the Children, WFP’s implementing partner, two community health workers, who serve as a link between the health facility and the community, are assigned to make regular follow-ups on all project beneficiaries, including Happy and Yalumbwe.

During her pregnancy Happy received additional support from community workers who trained her in the WASH scheme (water saving, sanitation and hygiene); cooking demonstrations on preparing nutritious foods and VICOBA — access to a saving and lending scheme through Village Community Banking.

A ‘tippy tap’ water dispenser for washing hands. Photo: WFP/Alice Maro. Right: Women at a VICOBA meeting. Photo: WFP/Zainul Mzige

In VICOBA, Happy saw an answer to her prayers for getting the money she needed to boost her business. After taking out a loan of 50,000 Tanzanian shillings (approximately US$ 22), she invested in better quality stock. This increased both the number of customers and her income.

Happy was able to repay her loan and still have enough to buy beef, milk, butter, sugar, fruit and other food items she could not afford before.

Improving diet quality and food diversity

Diverse diets are one of the keys to ensuring mothers and their children are receiving enough nutrients. For this reason the Boresha Lishe project also offers education in agriculture.

Happy learned to establish home gardens where she cultivates different vegetables for herself and her children. She grows amaranth, mikunde (green gram) and matembele (sweet potato leaves). Happy also learned how to use a solar dyer to dry and store some of the extra vegetables for later use — particularly important during the lean season.

Before the training she received, Happy tended to overlook some readily available, highly nutritious fruits such as ubuyu (boabab), zambarau (java plum) and mkwaju (tamarid) — all easily accessible from the local market. Since joining Boresha Lishe, Happy has adopted better feeding practices and developed a deeper understanding of food itself.

Home gardens in rural and urban areas to provide easy access to fresh and nutritious foods. Photos: WFP/Alice Maro, left. Right: WFP/Zainul Mzige

“Now that I am better informed on the benefits of eating a balanced diet, I ensure that my family diversifies its meals,” she says.

Happy adds she enjoys eating healthily and taking good care of herself and her family. She has also become an unofficial champion of the Boresha Lishe project at home and is keen to share the nutritional knowledge she has gained with friends and neighbours.

Learn more about WFP’s work in Tanzania

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme