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Empowering Women through Nutrition and Hygiene Education

Justina José, a single mother living in Nomola, a hamlet in Malema District, Nampula Province, exemplifies many of VISTA’s women beneficiaries. Now 19 years old, she gave birth to a daughter at the age of 15, who lives with Justina and her parents, all occupying a small thatched mud-brick house. Without any support from her daughter’s father, she ekes out a precarious existence with the pittances her equally poor parents can make available to her, and with the little cassava and beans, that she manages to extract from small and nutrient-exhausted plots of land near her homestead. Justina spends much time hauling water from a distant and muddy water hole. Searching and cutting firewood, the only fuel available to her to cook food, which she gathers from a sparse and degraded vegetation surrounding Nomola, is another activity that takes up much of her time.

VISTA came in direct contact with Justina on the occasion of the nutrition survey reported in the previous quarterly report. Asked about her food-intake of the previous 24 hours, she recalled 2 meals, lunch and dinner, spaced apart 6 hours, meaning she and her 4-year old daughter had gone without food for about 18 hours. The food she can afford normally consists of xima, a porridge made from maize or the especially nutrient-deficient cassava flour, cooked cassava leaves, perhaps a tomato and onion, and, when she has cash on hand, a bit of cooking oil. Rarely will there be dried fish or chicken. Meat is even scarcer in their diet. Further inquiry revealed that Justina, who finished only 5th grade, and can hardly read or write, knows very little about how to properly nourish herself or her daughter. After she had given birth, she would discard the colostrum, and she still believes that, because of its somewhat darker aspect, the colostrum can harm the baby, when quite the opposite is true.

VISTA cannot remedy the abject poverty that Justina finds herself in, but the project has brought some hope into her life. After being persuaded to join the Grupo de Apoio/Comunitário de Alimentação Infantil e de Criança Pequena, a self-help group of women in Nomola, she takes part in meetings, in which the VISTA-affiliated community health worker Cristina Cassimo, under the supervision of the promoter Ivodia Armando, educate her in basic nutrition, child-feeding and hygiene. Although Justina had heard about vitamins, she was not aware of the importance of the “orange vitamin” in a range of vegetables and fruits. She appears to be an eager learner and has grasped the opportunity that OFSP has provided her with-nutritionally valuable food that she can produce for herself and her daughter.

This is a budding success story that is hoped will continue to develop. VISTA continues to monitor Justina’s progress and will report to what extent the project will have improved Justina’s life.

 

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