Curbing Malnutrition: The Care Group Approach pays off in Mat South

By Caroline Chiimba

Malnutrition among children and women of childbearing has been high in Matebeleland South Province for the past decade with Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates reaching 11% according to the ZIMVAC results of 2022. This therefore calls for more comprehensive strategies to curb nutritional deficit in the area.

Through the Enhanced Resilience for Vulnerable Households in Zimbabwe (ERVHIZ) project, Nutrition Action Zimbabwe (NAZ) in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe with support from UNICEF, and funding from European Union (EU), adopted the care group approach to address nutritional challenges in the area.

Care Groups are groups of 10-15 women led by a promoter for peer- to peer health promotion programs that can quickly and effectively improve nutrition and health behaviours outcomes in low-resource communities.

The Care Group Approach is gaining momentum and bearing fruit in Matobo district.

Care group demonstration during the recently ended EU donor visit in Matobo, Pic credit Caroline Chiimba

“We have 15 care groups in this area, and they comprised of 10 members, each representing a household and are led by a promoter. Care groups are contributing significantly to the community health information system by gathering reports on identified malnutrition cases, and recording vital events in the communities (new pregnancies, births and deaths); and shares important information that promote health and good nutritional behaviours,” said Lindiwe Moyo, a promoter  who is also a VHW for  Mbuso village Matobo.

“Important information on nutrition and health is reaching community members faster and awareness programmes are now more effective because members of care groups take the messages to their fellow villagers. People are increasingly adopting health-conscious behaviors because they now know that the importance of practicing good health and nutrition behaviours as it is critical in saving children’s lives.”

According to the community, Nutrition Action Zimbabwe’s led Care group activities including cooking demonstrations are promoting the consumption of locally available foods in an interactive manner which ensures that communities practices beyond the life of the project.

“In all the practical activities, such as cooking demonstrations, locally available raw materials and resources are used. Already existing structures like the VHWs, traditional leadership will provide continuous monitoring and support,” said one of NAZ’s Nutrition officers.

Mbuso Nutrition garden chairperson gogo Doris Moyo added that parents and guardians are now better equipped to give their children a diverse diet from the crops that they grow and wild traditional fruits.

Gogo Doris in the Mbuso Nutrition Gardern, Pic credit: Caroline Chiimba

“Women are now able to cook the recommended four-star diet from local resources that are accordable. Currently we are making juice for the kids from Umganu (Mapfura in Shona) and my grandchildren enjoy that juice,” she said.

“Every morning l prepare sorghum porridge for my grandchildren or l prepare maize meal porridge and add peanut butter and they eat.  If you see my grandchildren right now, they are very healthy so much that their parents even jokingly quiz me asking what l feed their kids for them to look so healthy and strong.”

The nutrition component of the ERVHIZ project is targeting 59880 women of child-bearing age, Pregnant and Lactating Women and care givers of children under 5 in vulnerable situations in the face of economic and climate induced shocks and stresses. It is being implemented in six Matabeleland South districts namely Beitbridge, Bulilima, Gwanda, Insiza, Matobo and Mangwe.

More than 3000 caregivers in Mat south have been enrolled in care groups to receive behaviour change messaging on nutrition and health to ensure adoption of positive behaviours.

Display of nutritional foods during EU donor visit in Matobo

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