Government of Germany helps fight against malnutrition in Burundian children

Recent statistics reveal that 56% of all children below age 5 in Burundi are chronically malnourished. Two and half year old Laurette Bivamugusenga and her half brother are among those identified as malnourished. Their mom, Meliana Nizigiyimana, has been unable to give the children a diverse diet of healthy food.  Quality food in her family is something of the past; she is single having to care for three children and does not have enough land to grow a garden.

Two-year-old Laurette is used to spending her mornings with an empty stomach. However, today she’s eating rice and beans from her mom’s pot. According to her mom, Meliana Nizigiyimana, her children’s diet rarely varies; it is either rice on beans, potatoes and peas.

“They are the commodities that are cheap on the local market,” says Meliana, Laurette’s mom.

 Not varying meals is not good for the health of children, and Meliana is aware of that. However, as a single parent and mother of three, she finds it hard to put quality food on the table.

When Laurette was born her father rejected the baby, together with her mother, to marry another woman. He left the mother of two to fend for the whole family while staying on a very small plot of land.

“I depend on a small plot of land and can’t harvest enough for my children,” Meliana says.

‘’There are things my family has forgotten, new clothes, shoes or delicious food like meat and oil,” she continues.

Meliane is working as a daily labourer to be able to provide for her children.

However, the pay is not is expected, as she has to work with her young child on her back.

“They only pay me 1,500 BIF (approx. $0.8 US) per day,” Meliana explains.

Even though she tries her best to fend for her children, their health status does not improve.

A recent demographic health survey (DHS, 2016) shows that 56% of children under age 5 in Burundi are chronically malnourished.

With funding by the Government of Germany, World Vision Burundi is carrying out an active screening in three provinces which are most affected. When the screening team reached Meliane’s home; they found two of her three children, including Laurette, were malnourished.

Children who are diagnosed as malnourished were referred to a nearby health centre that is supported by World Vision to get nutritious food to eat through a supplementary feeding programme.

The programme has meant that Meliana’s children are surviving this crisis, despite the economic hardship the family faces. The number of malnourished children in this part of Burundi, are alarming. The village records 50 to 60 new cases of child malnutrition per month says Philbert Nibizi, a nurse at Butezi, the nearest health centre to Meliana’s home.

The number of malnourished women, especially pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, keeps increasing as well, the nurse reports. The cause of malnutrition is varied and includes a lack of quality food and a lack of awareness about child health and nutrition, along with worm infections and other diseases that attack weak bodies.

Menedore Ndagijimana is a World Vision staff working on child health issues. “Worms can lead to malnutrition as they rob children of nutrients that bodies are in need of,” Menedore explains.

Laurette’s belly is also bloated and her mom fears the girl is suffering from worms too.

With the funding of the Government of Germany, World Vision aims to address issues related to malnutrition. Vulnerable families are being identified so that they can be supported with short cycle crops and nutrients rich vegetables to help stop the trend.

This project will also help in providing clean water is much needed in many areas where the project is being implemented to prevent children from suffering from worms and waterborne diseases.

Despite her vulnerability, Meliana is determined to reverse the trend. She has already joined an association that is growing beans and maize.

She hopes to get more food through her new association and asks for support with improved crops and fertilizers.