Better food + less sickness = less poverty
In Phu Mo, Phu Yen province and in Nong, Savannakhet province (Laos), MCNV supervises two projects to combat child malnutrition. Our approach to the problems in the isolated villages is broader than just a nutrition plan for the little ones, we also include agriculture and hygiene in and around the houses. The result: better food, fewer diseases and, in the long run, less poverty.
We already wrote to you that many children under the age of 5 are seriously malnourished in these villages in Phu Mo and Nong. They do not get enough good nutrients and we are tackling that by starting vegetable gardens. We encourage keeping chickens for extra proteins and explain to the mothers what their children need to become healthy and able to develop themselves. The mothers need extra food too: some neglect themselves during pregnancy and they do not know enough about breastfeeding and feeding the toddlers.
In Phu Mo, about 77 children under the age of five have recently been given a nutritious, warm meal in nursery school every day. La Thi Sot (27 years old, 2 children aged 6 and 7) cooks everything personally, using as many vegetables as possible and she adds some meat or fish and eggs. Together with the principal, she puts together a weekly menu, a different meal with sufficient nutritional value each day. La Thi Sot: “Today we eat tomato, tofu and pork sauce with rice. I started this cooking last fall because I wanted to do something for the children in our community. I did not earn anything in the first few months, but now it is going well and I am earning about 2 million Dong (80 euros) a month, together with my husband. The government pays parents a fee for the meals, and the parents pay us. My husband brings the food on his moped to the schools. I am busy cooking around 4 hours a day. Some of the vegetables come from my garden. I am very happy that I can help the children and it also helps my own family.”
Spinach from Nong
On the other side of the border in Nong, Laos, the government has been handing out plant seeds, manure and chickens, and MCNV employees have organized workshops in the villages so that now many families can eat vegetables from their own vegetable garden and eggs from their own chickens. Mothers take pleasure in growing all sorts of new vegetables such as lettuce and a kind of spinach, which makes their childrens diet varied and healthier. So Thi Yen (30, 2 children aged 5 and 10) feeds her chickens. “My children didn’t like the new vegetables at first! I learned to mix them with flavors they are used to. My chickens have laid 200 eggs in a few months. We eat them ourselves and every week I take 5 eggs to a women’s group in the village. Everyone brings something, including vegetables. There we learn what our children need, how much and how to prepare it. I can already see how the children have changed. They now get eggs, vegetables, meat and cooking oil, we didn’t have all that. I feel happy, I am really happy with this change!”
Hygiene can be improved
Apart from the need for better nutrition, there is another similarity between the villages in Phu Mo and Nong that makes people susceptible to illness. Households often lack hygiene. The cows and pigs are close to or below the houses and there is no clean running water. Diarrhea and food poisoning are common here. The women wash in a communal laundry room in the middle of the village, but because there is no privacy, they often keep their clothes on and that causes more health problems. With simple solutions such as a drinking water pump, a separate bathing area for women and a secluded, fenced piece of land for cattle, many problems can be avoided.
Grow something else
Agriculture is impossible on the rocky, barren soil around the villages. On the small pieces of land that can be cultivated, some rice grows for personal consumption and cassava trees are planted on a large scale for export, with which the residents could earn some extra money in the past before the market price fell. In Nong there is also the problem of the river bursting its banks every year and washing away fertile soil. The people are collecting edible berries and mushrooms in the forest, but that does not provide sufficient extra nutrients and their income remains very low. Together with agricultural experts, we look for alternatives that do well here and with which people also earn something, such as corn, acacias (bee honey) and fruits such as watermelon, banana, pomelo and papaya.
Better food, improved hygiene and different crops … to make the recipe for malnutrition work, we added a fourth ingredient: education. In Phu Mo and Nong we work together with schools and medical posts in the area so that as much knowledge as possible about this approach is being spread to the villagers and organizations.
Our question to you
Malnourished children, we can do something about that together! In Phu Mo in Vietnam and Nong in Laos many children are malnourished. MCNV has a plan of action that is broader than just providing better food for the children. We also improve household hygiene and guide farmers towards smarter crops, so that they can eventually earn a little more. We need your help for this approach! A total of € 53,000 is needed for the food projects. If you raise € 26,500 this year, we can help many poor families in Nong and Phu Mo on their way to better food, less illness and ultimately less poverty.
Thank you very much for your (extra) contribution!