Today I would like us to talk about health and nutrition. Nutrition has been called the single greatest environmental influence on babies in the womb and during infancy, and it remains essential throughout the first years of life. A proper balance of nutrients in this formative period is critical for normal brain development. Shortages of nutrients such as iron and iodine can impair cognitive and motor development, and these effects are often irreversible. Nutrition is also an important part of academic success and physical development. In vulnerable communities children often attend school without having had anything to eat and spend the whole day at school on an empty stomach. In the rural communities we work in, teachers highlight how difficult it is for some of the pupils to concentrate during class when they are hungry. When we conduct our regular health assessments one can clearly observe stunted growth due to malnutrition in some of the pupils. To mitigate this challenge, Nhaka Foundation with the help of its partners and the rural communities in the Mashonaland East Province is currently implementing a Health Assessment Program and a wet School Feeding Program in primary schools.
Each day pupils receive a traditional, highly nutritious drink called maheu at break time.
Maheu consist of a blend of maize meal, sorghum and water and has since time immemorial been used as a meal on the go. It has a high roughage content making it a food and a drink at the same time which can be taken at any time of the day. Maheu also have a high nutritional content with 12 vitamins and nutrients, which guarantees the health and development of the children having it on a daily basis.The kids love it and seeing them drink and enjoy the drink is enough reward for me. As Programs Officer part of my job is ensuring the food drink is delivered timeously and that it is being served according to agreed food and health standards. I am so passionate about the feeding program that the kids now call me “Mr Maheu”.
Our organisation’s mission;, “to educate, feed and improve the health of orphans and vulnerable children” is put to the test in a climate where millions are facing hunger due to political, socio-economic challenges which have been exacerbated by two consecutive drought seasons between 2015 and 2016. In order to ensure that the feeding program is sustained past the intervention period Nhaka Foundation seeks to provide a nutritional solution that will not only address the immediate need to provide food relief but also have an option that can be replicated in the communities that we serve. This is why we chose Maheu. Since maheu has been made for decades communities know how to grow the ingredients as well as make it. They can therefore come together to as a collective to feed the children on a continuous basis.
I would like to leave you with this thought I read from the Journal of Nutrition (2010); the long-term health and vitality of entire nations depends on the wellbeing of its individual children. As an organisation with the support of local and international partners we seek to provide our children with the fair opportunity to grow and develop just as well as they privileged peers, through the use of sustainable methods that can be replicated with ease.