World Vision combats malnutrition among children in Burundi

World Vision is working to combat malnutrition in the north-eastern Burundi province of Karuzi by educating communities about proper nutrition and hygiene.

A series of cooking demonstrations have been held in communities throughout the province, as part of World Vision's Integrated Agriculture Project aimed at improving food security in the country.

Families with malnourished children, pregnant and lactating women benefited from the community events, held from May 27 to 30.

"This initiative helped to reinforce the theoretical knowledge about nutrition and hygiene that WVB has been delivering to the beneficiaries through a series of trainings since the project started in June 2003," said Donatien Bavumiragiye, WVB HIV/AIDS and Nutrition Coordinator.

More than 2,500 mothers and children from five communities in Karuzi province participated in the demonstrations, learning how to prepare a nutritious meal with ingredients grown and produced locally.

Community Health workers demonstrated the preparation of food stressing the importance of hygiene and discussing the nutritional value of food, teaching the mothers how to achieve a balanced diet with the limited amount of food available.

"The message we give to the communities, especially mothers, is that the first step to preventing malnutrition among their children comes from a proper and balanced diet in their homes," said Donatien Bavumiragiye.

While social injustice and economic deprivation are the main causes of malnutrition among the vulnerable population in Burundi, a lack of public awareness regarding healthy eating habits complicates the nutritional issues in the country.

Funded by UNDP, the project targets over 17,500 vulnerable households in the province and is focused on assessing the malnutrition levels among children, improving the nutritional status and preventing diseases among children and their mothers in Karuzi province.

According to Jean de Dieu Ndayanse, WVB's Health and HIV/AIDS Program Supervisor, the malnutrition levels in Karuzi were alarming with an average of 350-400 people per month admitted to therapeutic feeding centers run by MSF Belgium in Karuzi province, but since the project began, the numbers have gone down significantly averaging 50 to 60 cases per month.

During the past two years, the project focused mainly on conducting regular training on nutrition and hygiene among the vulnerable families, distributing vegetable seeds and fruit trees, organizing agricultural training and helping the beneficiaries to establish and maintain vegetable gardens.

In partnership with the provincial office of the Ministry of Health, WVB together with Community Health workers initiated a number of activities aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles in the communities including training on balanced diet, personal hygiene and prevention of diseases as well as series of special trainings for pregnant and lactating mothers.

As the next step of its program, WVB is planning to continue the nutrition intervention in the province including promotion of healthy food and lifestyle, dietary diversification, nutritional education and advocacy.

Report from Anna Dira and Arthur Gahungu - WV Burundi Communications

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