Private Sector Helps Fight Malnutrition

With support from MSH, community therapeutic care (CTC)—an initiative that mobilizes communities and health clinics to identify and treat severe malnutrition—has expanded to many districts in Malawi. MSH has supported CTC in five districts, dramatically increasing access to community-based care and improving cure rates among malnourished children. Given this success, the Mbalachanda Tobacco Estate called on MSH to help proactively address child malnutrition in Mbalachanda communities.

Tobacco is one of Malawi's chief cash crops, and thousands of Malawians work harvesting it each year. "The hours are so long that nutritious morning and evening meals are often neglected," says Mbalachanda Tobacco Estate Operations Manager Jones S. A. Kampezeni. "We have a vested interest to make sure our employees and their families are healthy and in good spirits."

At the Mbalachanda Estate in Mzimba, the crop promises to be one of the best in years. This means long hours in the fields for the men and women who live and work on Mbalachanda's 12 tobacco estates. For the children of these employees, the estate offers primary school, a day care center, and one meal a day—which for most of the children is their only meal of the day. These northern tobacco-growing districts have some of the highest child malnutrition rates in the country.

Three months after MSH began working with estate managers, Mbalachanda Estate launched its own CTC initiative with an opening-day celebration including community dramas, information booths, music, and food. More than 6,000 men, women, and children came from all 12 estates and neighboring villages to learn about nutrition and the services available at the estate-sponsored health clinic.

Mbalachanda also hired a full-time medical assistant and health surveillance assistant. The health surveillance assistant will help reach out to the more than 3,600 families living on the tobacco estates, educating them about the importance of good nutrition. In the first three months of the estate-sponsored nutrition services, 30 children were treated and 12 volunteers trained—one in each Mbalachanda Estate community.