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Reaching Children

March 15, 2012

The Community Health Program Moves Forward

The community health program based in Terre Blanche continues full steam ahead. Early on, the village committees decided on three major health issues to focus on: childhood diarrhea, maternal health and child nutrition.

During the first year of the program, the community health volunteers were trained on water, sanitation and hygiene, and went house to house teaching families how to keep water clean and use simple methods for hand washing. They also coordinated the construction of several latrines in each of the three villages where they work: Terre Blanche, Dubedou and Finel.

By God’s grace, they were well prepared to respond to the cholera outbreak in 2010. Despite the epidemic, the RATE OF DIARRHEA IN CHILDREN DROPPED from more than 66 to less than 33 percent, and there were no deaths from cholera in the three villages.

Since then, the community health workers have received training on MATERNAL HEALTH and now visit every pregnant woman to monitor their health, teach about danger signs to watch for during and after pregnancy, and coordinate emergency transportation for women in labor. The program leaders are also training traditional midwives on better delivery practices, and gathering pregnant women in mothers’ clubs to teach health topics.

We now look forward to the next 18 months and the NUTRITION PROGRAM. We found during our baseline survey in 2008 that more than 30 percent of children in these communities are malnourished. Responding to this problem can be complex, since it is not simply a matter of lack of food. How and what children are fed and responding to illness plays a role in malnutrition.

I spent a week with the program leaders and volunteers last October to introduce the key concepts of nutrition and to help them create their own plan for this important program. They eagerly participated in learning about the causes of malnutrition, how to monitor a child’s growth, what kind of counseling to give parents, and how to treat a malnourished child.

They COMMITTED TO AN AMBITIOUS PROGRAM to weigh every child in every village each month, to visit any child at home who does not come to a rally post to be weighed, and to visit malnourished children at home to check on their growth. They will teach families how best to feed their children to prevent malnutrition and how to help pregnant women get enough food.

For the malnourished kids, they will start a program where mothers will learn how to feed their children with locally available foods that are being used by families with healthy children. For children with the most severe malnutrition, we will continue to provide a peanut-based therapeutic food called Medika Mamba. And to help provide a more diverse supply of food at home, we will train agriculture committees and families to grow home gardens.

It sounds like a big job, and it is, but the nutrition program is the VISION OF THE COMMUNITIES themselves, and the targets are their own. We are honored to walk alongside them as they make the kingdom of God a reality.

Written by Dr. Steve Sethi, HFH board member.

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