We are saddened to report that one of our long-standing projects in Zambia, 1000 Days of Motherhood, is presently on hold. Staff from our partners at the National Food and Nutrition are unable the distribute Lifeplayer units at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is worsening. They are also unable to travel around the country as the initiative is located in deep rural areas.
It is our hope that in the next few months that we will have something concrete to report and that our team will be able again to visit Zambia and this wonderful project.
As we have noted in previous updates, the 1000 Days of Motherhood has been a great success to date. At least a further 1000 Lifeplayer units are needed to meet the demand. Zambia is a huge country with more than half the population still living in rural areas, the need remains great.
Although Zambia has only a few confirmed cases of the Corona Virus, the country is preparing.Schools and many government offices have been closed. People are being asked to keep their distance and limit domestic travel. If the virus takes hold in Zambia, it would be catastrophic for the country as their health system is woefully under-resourced.
We are continuing to raise funds to support rural mothers as the Lifeplayer units will be needed more than ever once this emergency passes. We are holding any funds raised until the units would be able to be distributed.
Therefore, we are unable to provide an update on the project for this quarter. We are in touch with our partners at the National Food and Nutrition Commission who are responsible for implementing the 1000 Days of Motherhood initiative. They will advise us as to when the project formally resumes with rural comunities.
The Bushes That Grow audio series helps to combat stunting and improve health outcomes in Zambia.As national broadcasting fees are prohibitively expensive, except on a few community stations, our Lifeplayer MP3s have been successfully used to bring much-needed maternal and child health content to local mothers community groups. The groups meet once a week when convenient for them and then have time afterwards to discuss the new learnings.
Produced by the National Food and Nutrition Commission, there are two series of Bushes That Grow and in both they covers common misconceptions and “old wives’ tales”. There are numerous misconceptions about maternal and child health and some of the biggest are around breastfeeding.
- In hot weather babies should be given water to keep them from dehydrated
- Babies should be given cow or goat’s milk (which is hard for babies to digest)
- Babies should be given milk products (some of which contain sugar)
- A teaspoon of sugar can be added to water or milk to give a baby more energy
A qualified nurse explains on Bushes That Grow that breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving the health of mothers and babies alike. She notes that according to research only 40% of all babies under six months were being exclusively breastfed in Zambia. This is way too low.Babies should be breastfed for up to 24 months.
Great strides have been made in Zambia since Bushes That Grow and other initiatives actively encourage breastfeeding. Our Lifeplayer units support community based groups in deep rural areas across the country, especially in those areas with high rates of stunting. And Zambia is large country, bigger than the state of Texas.
Please continue to support this great project that helps rural and often illiterate mothers to raise healthy children. Each Lifeplayer unit reaches about 30 mothers directly and mothers birth five children on average.
Firstly, let me apologise for the tardiness of this update. We've been waiting for feedback from our local partner in Zambia, the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFCC).
Their teams have been in the field and haven’t been in a position to report back to us. They work in rural areas so remote that villages can only be reached in off-road vehicles. And it may take a day or more just to get there. The nutrition response team is speaking to mothers about the Bushes that Grow radio programme series, its effectiveness, limitations and challenges. They are also monitoring the value of our Lifeplayer MP3 units to reliably deliver the content. This is in addition to surveying how the information is impacting stunting and mother and child health during the critical first 1000 days.
The NFCC had hoped they could respond with a formal update already, but they’ve informed us that they’re still in the field and the reports would not be ready to meet the GlobalGiving deadline.
What they do ask is can we please send more Lifeplayer units, as it’s the only way these rural mothers’ groups can listen as Bushes that Grow isn’t broadcast on radio due to the cost.
Stay tuned until next time! And thank you again for your support.
We are delighted to advise you that the 1000 Days of Motherhood initiative in Zambia now is scaling up to include deep rural districts that were not included in the first phase of the programme. Fifteen disticts particpated in three of the country’s ten provinces in phase 1. Zambia is divided into provinces, districts and wards and is roughly the size of Texas. Our partner, the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) selected those districts where 40% or more of children under five were stunted.
We thought it might be helpful to give a bit of backgound information as to why Zambia has some of the highest rates of stunting in the world and why the1000 Days is truly a critical initiative.
Zambia’s population is young.The median age is 16 with life expectancy for women at 54 and for men 51. Nearly 60% live in rural areas.Life in rural areas is hard. There are fewer schools and health facilities and infrastructure is less developed. Women are less likely to be educated and rates of illiteracy amongst women can be as high as 80%. The median age for first-time mothers is 19. Rural women have an average of six children each. Children are seen as a symbol of prestige.
The majority of rural women are subsistence farmers who grow mainly maize (corn). Variety is lacking in the family diet. This creates a perfect storm for stunting and under-nutrition.Micronutrient and Vitamiin A deficiencies are common, as is anaemia.
The 1000 Days of Motherhood initiative is a series of audio programmes that covers all aspects of maternal and child health and nutrition. Listener groups of mothers (and some fathers) meet weekly to listen to programmes and discuss what they’ve learned.The Bushes that Grow audio series is produced in seven local languages and in English.
NFNC are ambitiously scaling up and hoping for 300 more Lifeplayer units, according to the project lead Eustina Besa.Please continue supporting this wonderful, high-impact project.
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