Communities growing their own solution to malnutrition

As you sponsor a child in Burundi, we thought you might like to read about how World Vision is working there to reduce child malnutrition.

When Jacqueline’s 16-month-old grandson weighed only a little over six kilograms she was not sure he would live.

“I had lost hope. Because of malnutrition I could not believe my grandson Theogene would survive,” Jacqueline says. “I took him to a FARN site (nutritional education and rehabilitation centre) in my neighbourhood where my neighbour David taught us how we can feed our children with what we produce. After 12 days my child gained weight of 200 grams. I went back home and applied the knowledge I got and within only one month my child weighed 7.4 kg. He is now a healthy child weighing 8 kg.”

The FARN projects in the community help teach parents and caregivers how to make sure their children are fed a balanced diet, even in difficult times.

The program is still in its first year but is starting to show results for the community. Now people say “Twari twahomvye vyinshi kubona tutari bwamenye ivy’ibigo ngarukirabuzima” (We had lost much before we knew FARN).

Community members used to turn up to the health centre in large numbers for supplies like Plumpy Nut, a nutritionally dense peanut paste that is used to help counter malnutrition in children.

Very often, there would be a two week or a whole month shortage of supplies and people would go back home with a sense of hopelessness.

The nurse in charge of the local health centre, Masabo, says the number of people – including children – needing to be treated by her colleagues has dropped. “We used to have many cases of malnutrition at the health centre. But today, thanks to the FARNs, we are recording very few malnutrition cases compared to what we were used to.”

Before FARNs sites were setup, the average number of malnutrition cases was 227 per month, and 1135 malnutrition cases were treated in the first half of 2013. When FARNs started, the average number of malnutrition cases per month dropped to 176.

The program isn’t just about education and intervention, but has also introduced kitchen gardens so community members no longer have to buy vegetables from the local market, but produce vegetables themselves.

Deogratias, a 40-year-old community member said, “I used to buy vegetables from the local market, but today I no longer buy them. I use the money I was using to buy vegetables for something else. I can confirm that none of my children will suffer from malnutrition, especially now that I learnt from World Vision how to prepare a balanced diet. If only all my community members could adopt kitchen gardens practice, we would all kiss goodbye to malnutrition.”