Susana is 40 years old. She has four children and lives in a small community called Kachelewa, located in the lush landscapes of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Life here seems normal with everyone going about his or her business. The DRC is beautiful. Rolling hills dominate the landscape. Each hill is unique. Some are scarred with rows of crops and others dotted with houses, while others are bare, some have rivers snaking through them.
These hills provide a picturesque backdrop to a disturbing situation. For some time now, children have died before their second birthday in this area and no one could understand why.
I talked with Susana during my recent trip to DRC and the Kachelewa community. The change in the community was drastic. She praised the work Food for the Hungry (FH) has done with care groups in her community.
“I am so thankful to FH for this project. When I gave birth to my first three children, I gave them porridge at the age of 3 months. I had no knowledge on what to do. My children were always weak and sickly. Their stomachs protruded, and you could even see their ribs. Then FH came to this community and taught us how to properly feed infants. So when I gave birth to my fourth son, I changed my habits. I breastfed him for six months and the change was evident, I am lucky I did not lose a child,” she says.
FH has used care groups to rapidly disseminate health messages in communities. It has helped to cut down on the spread of diseases and improved the health of children. In spreading health messages, FH works with mothers, like Susana. She is what FH calls a mother leader.
FH staff trained her on key messages on health, nutrition and sanitation. In turn, Susana trained a group of ten women from the community. These women then went on to teach other women in the community about health, nutrition and sanitation. The result is a drastic transformation of lifestyle habits and healthier children in a community that once watched their children suffer and die.
“I had no idea that there were three types of food to feed children: Proteins to build the body, vitamins to prevent illnesses, and carbohydrates for energy. My life has drastically changed. My children are healthy all the time. More so, FH has taught us proper methods of farming, which enable us to increase crop production and put food on the table,” Susana adds.
As a result of years of conflict in the DRC, the healthcare system is not up to world standards. Many have little or no access to healthcare. These teachings from FH literally save the lives of children and preserve a generation that may very well be the architects of changes in the mineral-rich DRC.