Nutritional rehabilitation: Feeding children, educating mothers
Malnutrition is a scourge that takes a life-long toll on children in sub-Saharan Africa. Two out of every five children are stunted in growth; one of three children is underweight. Many are impaired in their intellectual development and unable to succeed in school. Malnourished girls become young women who are physically underdeveloped and vulnerable to difficult pregnancies and childbirth. Dr. Barbara Nagy, a pediatritian serving in Malawi, says “Malnutrition is so pervasive here it is often overlooked, but it impacts just about every area of life ... ”
The reasons for malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa are many and varied: bad weather and crop failure, civil unrest that forces families off their land, economic need that causes farmers to sell the best of their harvest and keep little to feed their families, and traditional practices that feed the father first and give what’s left to the children. In communities where many families have been stricken with AIDS, motherless infants are often taken in by grandmothers. PC(USA)mission co-worker Dr. Martha Sommers in Malawi sees many cases of “ngogo (grandmother) syndrome”: severe malnutrition, infection and delayed development due to lack of breastfeeding and adequate care.
PC(USA)’s church partners in Africa are responding to the plight of hungry children and their families. Nutritional rehabilitation programs at mission hospitals work to restore the health of children, and to improve the ability of mothers to provide them adequate nutrition. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the nutrient-rich leaves of the Moringa tree are used as a powerful supplement in children’s meals. In Tshikaji, the site of PC(USA)-supported Good Shepherd Hospital , 75 percent of village children are now getting moringa in their diet, resulting in lower rates of malnutrition. According to Nancy Haninger, RN, who served as a mission co-worker in Tshikaji, it costs as little as $1 per day to provide food for one child in a nutritional rehabilitation center.