The Malawi United Methodist Church Pre-School Feeding Initiate (MUMCSFI), through its health ministry, is intended to help local churches and their partners, particularly chiefs, parents – who are working to establish or enlarge pre-school or ‘stand alone’ feeding programs with support from the Malawi United Methodist Church (MUMC). This program aims at improving health and nutrition and alleviating short-term hunger among the under-five children.
In partnership with The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR) from Kansas city, USA, the MUMCSFI has brought hope to children in Madisi, Dowa district, the central region of Malawi.
Madisi Pre-school feeding program has 40 children with their ages ranging from 3 – 5. It started in October, 2011, using the church as a classroom.
Madisi has a cook, Mrs Mark, employed to prepare Likuni Phala (a maize and soya cereal) once a day for the children.
Since it started, Madisi Pre-school has seen a lot of parents (30 on the waiting list) coming to have their children enrolled because of the meals that the other children are getting. Unfortunately, the pre-school can not increase its enrollment number due to inadequate number of trained caretakers (2). This is to ensure that the program attains and maintains basic feeding standards. So far, the program is running smoothly with the 40 children having a plate full of porridge per day.
Unlike in Madisi, where the feeding program has trained care takers, Phokera ‘stand alone’ feeding program is run by dedicated community women. It is situated in Nsanje district, the southern part of Malawi. It started some 10 months ago (February, 2011) after the community leaders saw the need. These women collect maize flour from their homes and prepare porridge for the children. It has more than 70 children and their ages range from 1 – 10.
The women use plain maize flour without any nutrient added to it.They cook under a tree using firewood. They get water from a shallow unprotected well about 100 meters from the site.
There is no building to use for the feeding program, so the children feed under a tree in groups.
The women of Phokera are wonderful, they are feeding their children using the available resources thereby making a difference in their children’s lives. After they started the program, the drop rate of children in primary schools around Phokera due to hunger has reduced. The women make sure the children get porridge before or after school. This has encouraged the children to go to school in exchange for a plate of porridge. For children who are young to go to school, they also gather to get their portion.
These are the women behind the success of Phokera ‘stand alone’ feeding program.
Zwaki is situated in Nsanje district as well with a pre-school feeding program. It has one trained caretaker and an assistant. It has 96 children, their ages range from 3 -9.
This program is also run by the community women who are fully supported by their local leaders. They use a glass shelter whose roof was blown off by a strong wind, as a classroom.
There is talent in Zwaki, children had to show it through their singing.
Just like in Phokera, the women in Zwaki feed their children with porridge from plain maize flour, once a day, by collecting the flour from homes surrounding the site.
Wilson is situated in Nsanje as well. It has a ‘stand alone’ feeding program run by the community women as well. It has 74 children, their age range is 2 1/2 – 9. They cook and feed the children under a tree. The community can not afford a plate for each child, so they feed from old bottles. Parents are told to give their children these bottles when they are they coming for the feeding.
The community can hardily afford porridge for the children, so they are fed with a drink called Thobwa (made from maize and millet) just to alleviate the short term hunger.
Primary school children benefit from the program as can be seen by the girls in uniform. Wilson community, encouraging the girl child to go to school through the Thobwa feeding program! Those who can not afford the bottles, use cups.
The Malawi United Methodist Church, through its Health ministry, is committed to safe, health communities by standardizing its pre-school and ‘stand alone’ feeding programs thereby preventing diseases and promoting good health within groups of people, from small communities to the entire country.
By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo