Learn from the Children: A Young Student Helps her Mother Better Nourish the Family

 {Photo credit: MSH}Justine Ngalula with her mother, Alphonsine, and baby brother Antoine. All three are eating better thanks to the nutrition information Justine learned in school.Photo credit: MSH

Twelve-year-old Justine Ngalula studies more than reading, writing, and arithmetic at her school in Nedekesha health zone. A community health worker trained by the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Integrated Health Program (IHPplus) has been educating teachers and students at Justine’s Catholic school on nutrition, emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding even though the students are young. Optimal breastfeeding, Justine learned, means starting immediately after birth, breastfeeding exclusively for six months, and continuing for  two years.

Justine talked with her mother, Alphonsine Ngalula, about breastfeeding the latest family arrival, baby Antoine. Ngalula agreed to follow the breastfeeding guidelines with him.  Justine also passed along information on the value of preparing nutritious, local foods for her three weaned but malnourished young siblings.

It did not take long for the mother of this large family to notice a difference. She says Antoine is healthier and sturdier than most of his siblings were at his age.  His sisters and brothers are growing stronger as well, from eating local vegetables and other foods that she now prepares.

Convinced by her own experience, Ngalula joined the local Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) support group organized by community health workers (CHWs) and supported by IHPplus. IYCF support groups hold nutrition-education meetings, support mothers in breastfeeding, and organize regular cooking demonstrations featuring local produce. In 2014, IHP (IHPplus’ predecessor) trained 4 members of the health zone management team, 10 male nurses, 10 midwives, and 30 CHWs in nutrition education and how to lead IYCF support groups.

Now, Ngalula is passing on her nutritional wisdom to neighbors and others in her community: "My daughter told me about many ways to prevent malnutrition. I regret having learned these things so late in life. But, at least I can invest in the education of other members of my community.” 

Led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in partnership with Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd., in 83 health zones under a subcontract via Pathfinder/Evidence to Action (E2A), IHPplus is considered a 13-month “bridge,” to avoid a gap in services in USAID-supported health zones upon completion of the five-year flagship IHP.