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How Families are Overcoming Malnutrition in Zimbabwe


July 5, 2022 • 2 min read

11-month-old Phiri clings to a wall as she walks unsteadily towards her mother, who is seated under a tree outside their home in a high-density suburb in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare.

Phiri is already using non-verbal communication to express her feelings. As soon as she reaches her mother, who is pounding maize grains to make rice, she imitates words inaudibly.

Her mother, Sibongumusa, 33, quickly sees that her daughter is hungry. The mother of three, who minds the home with her self-employed husband, rushes to the kitchen to prepare some nutritious porridge for her daughter.

Identifying Malnutrition

The porridge is part of the recovery support that Sibongumusa’s daughter has received since she was treated for malnutrition at a nearby clinic.

Local community health workers identified that Phiri was malnourished during one of their home visits in the area.

“They used a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) tape to identify malnutrition. They then referred me to the local clinic,” says Sibongumusa.

At the clinic, the nurses observed that Phiri was wasting (underweight for her height). This came as no surprise to her mother.

“Phiri was born with low birth weight. Her father was even worried when she was born. The malnutrition diagnosis at the clinic did not shock me. I tried to feed her simple food in the first year to improve the situation but that did not help,” she says.

The LINKAGES Programme

Sibongumusa’s daughter was admitted for treatment at the clinic, which is improving nutrition in the local community. The clinic, supported by GOAL’s European Union Humanitarian Aid funded LINKAGES project, is is also helping to protect people from the risks of abuse in the cities of Harare and Bulawayo.

Phiri’s Recovery

Sibongumusa was given plumpy nut, a peanut-based paste for treatment of severe acute malnutrition, to provide to Phiri until she recovered.

Sibongumusa is also receiving financial support to ensure she can buy nutritious food for the rest of the family.

Local health authorities indicate that education is a key factor leading to malnutrition. While many families lack knowledge proper child feeding habits, poverty is a major cause.  Many families lost their source of income due to Covid induced lockdowns and are now unable to put healthy food on the table for their children.

“I was supported with $49 USD for three months, and that made a big difference. I used the money to buy groceries for my family,” Sibongumusa says.

Thankfully, Sibongumusa’s daughter has recovered well. The nutritious porridge she is receiving from the programme is helping Phiri to grow and reach her developmental milestones.

Today, Phiri is enjoying a healthy, happy childhood and Sibongumusa and her family are hopeful of a better future.

The LINKAGES programme is funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid and is being implemented by GOAL Zimbabwe.