Helping two-year-old Akakulubelwa from Zambia recover from malnutrition

Helping two-year-old Akakulubelwa from Zambia recover from malnutrition

Jul 15, 2021

Poniso Situmbeko, 52, lost her husband six years ago, and now lives with her sixteen-year-old daughter and three grandchildren in the village of Namunga in the Nalolo district of Zambia’s Western Province. Situmbeko is the head of the household and relies on the produce from her farm to cover the needs of the entire family. People in Need’s (PIN’s) nutrition field supervisor in Zambia, Memory Biemba, talked to Situmbeko about her grandson, who is participating in PIN’s nutrition programme, being implemented jointly with the Zambian Ministry of Health.

The programme provides ready-to-use, high-energy foods such as plumpy nut (a paste made from groundnuts and fortified with essential vitamins and minerals) to malnourished children, and trains community health volunteers and staff in the effective identification and prevention of malnutrition. The project is financed by the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and People in Need’s Club of Friends.

Amazing change in a short time

“Before participating in the programme, Akakulubelwa, or Aka, as we call him, was very quiet and didn’t have much energy. He always played alone, didn’t have an appetite, and was really tiny. He didn’t look healthy at all. Upon joining the nutrition programme, he was given plumpy nut twice a day, in the morning before breakfast and in the evening before dinner. After only two months, Aka gained more than 2.5 kilogrammes and suddenly became much more active. He started running, jumping, and even talking more. It was an amazing change in such a short time,” describes Situmbeko.

“As part of the programme, we have also been going to the health centre to learn about proper nutrition and feeding practices. We learn what types of food to cook for our children based on their current age. I was also taught how many times a day Aka should eat, and which types of food we should include in his diet,” shares Situmbeko.

“In the past, Akakulubelwa usually ate only nshima with veggies. When I had some extra money, I bought fish or mabisi for him. Normally, we ate only twice a day, sometimes once. Now I know that my grandson should eat four to five times a day, and that his diet should include different types of foods. For example, I can cook special nshima for him, where I add pounded peanuts, greens, or fish into the mealie meal," says Situmbeko.

I do not want him to become malnourished again

“The nurses said Aka will be in the nutrition programme for another three months, until he reaches the normal weight for his age – that is, 12.5 kilogrammes. I will try to make sure he keeps growing well; I don’t want him to become malnourished again. I want to cook more diverse foods and offer him more vegetables and different dishes such as fish or meat, even though it is very difficult for me to spare money for these foods. I don’t have a regular income, and I rely on selling the excess produce from my field at the market in the village,” explains Situmbeko.

“My biggest wish is to make sure Aka and my other grandchildren have enough food, because I am the person they rely on; unfortunately, none of them has a father to help support them. I hope I will have enough money to provide everything they need to be healthy. I am very glad that PIN is supporting our health centre in Makukutu, and that they have helped my grandson,” says Situmbeko.

“My second wish would be to receive support to establish a garden, so we could grow our own vegetables for consumption and sale. Right now, I cannot afford to start a garden. This kind of help would be appreciated by many families here in Nalolo, and it would help keep our children from becoming malnourished,” shares Situmbeko her plans for the future. 

Author: Zuzana Mukumayi Filipová, PIN Zambia Communication Officer