Ugandan Women Trained with Nutrition Program Revitalizing Sembabule's Malnourished

A woman from the Positive Deviance Hearth program educates women on good nutrition practices. {Photo credit: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}

Living in a wobbly shack with mud walls and a grass roof has not deterred Tushemerirwe Esparanza from becoming a change agent in the fight against child malnutrition in her village of Nantungo, in Lwebitakuli Sub County Uganda. Tushemerirwe has helped teach her home village that balanced nutrition is important for children’s health and development—malnutrition is responsible for nearly 60 percent of infant deaths in Uganda. But spreading that message was not easy for her at first.

“When I was starting out, many women despised me. They did not think that I would have anything valuable to say to them,” Tushemerirwe recalls.

It all began when village health team members trained by STRIDES for Family Health visited Tushemerirwe’s village. Tushemerirwe’s child was healthy while other children in the neighborhood were malnourished.

The village health team asked Tushemerirwe to help train other women to feed their children well using the Positive Deviance Hearth Program. Tushemerirwe underwent training by STRIDES, and then returned to her village equipped with skills to fight child malnutrition.

“I used to think feeding a child was about filling the stomach. All that was required was in my backyard, yet my child was suffering,” said Kyalimpa, another mother in Nantungo. “After a month of giving my child nutritious foods [as taught to her by Tushemerirwe], she gained four kilograms. It has been a year and I have not taken her to hospital. I can now use my money for something else.” Kyalimpa has since trained five mothers whose children were malnourished.

Tushemerirwe has made a lasting impression in the lives of families in her village. “I am happy that the women are sharing what they learned with others. This will sustain the good feeding habits,” she said. She has become a leader and is helping children in Nantungo village grow into healthy adults.

Before the STRIDES intervention in Nantungo, many children in the village were malnourished but it was not recognized. Parents thought that signs of malnourishment such as a distended belly are genetic. Tushemerirwe empowered women with facts about malnutrition and its signs to counteract misinformation. With this knowledge the women of Nantungo are taking better care of their children and improving the entire village’s future. 

Tadeo Atuhura is a communications specialist for STRIDES for Family Health in Uganda.

STRIDES for Family Health (STRIDES) is a USAID-funded program in Uganda led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in partnership with Jhpiego, Meridian International, and the Ugandan organizations Communication for Development Foundation and the Uganda Private Midwives Association. STRIDES works with the Ministry of Health, districts, their communities, local private organizations, and individual private providers in 15 districts to increase contraceptive use and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP), decrease maternal and child mortality, and create a scalable nationwide intervention by the year 2014.