Reason for Patricia to Smile
Patricia Wyson was sad when she gave birth to her first-born daughter, Triza, who was born with a disability.
Triza had breathing difficulties when she was born. She stayed on oxygen machine for some days after birth to support her breathing.
At four months, Triza could neither eat nor sit. She had difficulties.
“It was painful to see my daughter going through such life. As a mother, I felt sad. Since she could not eat properly, Triza’s health was compromised. She was malnourished,” said Patricia.
A village that raises children
In Africa, Malawi in particular, it is believed that a child does not belong to one family alone but the whole community. It is a belief that it takes the whole village to raise a child.
Communities in Namadike village, Patricia’s home in Zomba district, noted the challenges that Triza was going through. The challenges were recognized by the Tikondane Cluster Group which is supporting children with disabilities in the area with support from Save the Children’s Resilience Economic Development (RED) project.
“We are supporting twelve households including Patricia’s. We were told to identify children with disabilities for support. Triza is one of them,” says Gladys Nkhanganya, the cluster leader.
“We train the mothers on how to prepare nutritious food and feed their children with disabilities. These foods are locally available. People have various food items but lacked knowledge on how well to prepare them for their children.
“We told them, for example, to mix various legumes for porridge flour to be more nutritious. This has helped to reduce malnutrition and stunting in the area. You can see how Triza is now. She was not like that,” she says.
Nkhanganya says that through the project, they also develop parallel bars that support the children with disabilities to stand and learn to walk on their own.
“These parallel bars support the children to learn to stand and walk. They also attract other abled children to come and play with their friends with disabilities, a development which helps their growth,” she says.
Reason for Patricia to smile
Triza is now six years old. She is now able to eat. With the help of the parallel bars, Triza is able to stand and walk.
“There is now a great improvement with my daughter. It is like a miracle now that she can eat and swallow without difficulties, a thing which could not happen in the past four years before the project.
“Even her health has improved tremendously because I am able to prepare nutritious food suitable and consumable for her. I am now happy to see Triza living a good life. She also started school. I am glad for the cluster group with support from the RED project for my child,” she says.
Save the Children Maternal Child Health and Nutrition Coordinator, Victoria Mkandawire, says the project aims at promoting nutrition and safe motherhood among others in the district.
“We want the children to be healthy from pregnancy to adulthood through the care groups. We want to deal with issues of malnutrition and stunting. The area had almost 46 percent of malnutrition and 24 percent of stunting when we started implementing the project. That is now eradicated,” she said.
Mkandawire says they are working with St. John of God to identify and support the children with various forms of disability.
“We want to see the children reaching their full development potential using locally available resources. This has helped to change the communities’ mindset and they are now using local food items to prepare nutritious meals for their children among others,” she said.
The project which is being funded by Save the Children Italy started in July 2019 and will run up to 30 June, 2024. It is being implemented through government stakeholders and community structures in the areas of traditional authorities Chikowi and Mbiza in Zomba district. It is targeting 4, 200 households with focus on youths, under five children and women of child bearing age.
Save the Children Italy Food Security and Livelihoods Advisor, Benedetta Ottavio, said after touring the project activities that “it is impressive to see how people have built resilience and their livelihoods and how the communities are owning the project.
“We have seen interesting teams such as women participating and we are really impressed.”