How hunger affects maternal health — and what mothers in Africa's drylands are doing about it
The long-term effects of hunger on maternal health can carry over into the health of newborns, and carry a lifelong impact. But that can be changed.
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Ache dreams of something that the majority of us living in Ireland take for granted – to see her children educated.
Living in Chad, where she takes care of her little girl and her baby boy – two-year-old Maimouna and newly born Bahar – as well as her husband, Ache faces huge challenges to meet even the most basic needs of her family.
Ache needs to work hard to feed her family on a daily basis, travelling far away to work, and life can be tough.
“When I wake up early in the morning, I prepare breakfast for myself, my children and my husband, and then I leave for the field.
“Because my field is so far away that it takes all day to get there, so I don’t get back until the evening to prepare dinner."
Keeping her children healthy is her top priority but this can be a struggle even during pregnancy, as the lack of available food can leave women like Ache suffering from malnutrition.
“I was malnourished when I was pregnant. Then, because I was breastfeeding my child, it meant I needed to be supported by Concern so that I could feed my child properly.”
We provided Ache with a special fortified flour used to improve her health and nutrition, and she is feeling much better since engaging with the programme.
After working with Concern’s Community Health Volunteers, she has also learned the skills to combat malnutrition and look forward to a happy and healthy future for her and her family.
“I learnt that when you have a newborn baby you cannot give it any water, but only the breast exclusively for six months,” she explains.
Ache learned this information from our volunteers, who visit households on a monthly basis.
She says that the greatest benefit that she has received from our team of Community Health Volunteers has been information, and she has used this knowledge to make a better life for her and her family.
“With my first child, I didn’t practice exclusive breastfeeding, but now that I know the technique I will practice it with my new baby.
“There are differences between the two children because of this."
Her first child, Maimouna, was ill a lot as a newborn baby but Bahar is faring so much better as a result of the information received from our care groups.
As well as receiving practical advice on feeding her family, Ache is also part of our seed distribution and is learning the new skills that she needs to make the best life possible.
“The seed distribution has helped us very much to grow more food. This has enabled me to feed my family and my children,” she adds.
While the immediate wellbeing of her children, and keeping them nourished, remains Ache’s main concern on a day-to-day basis, she can now focus on long-term goals such as education.
She wants both her son and daughter to thrive intellectually as well as physically and now that her family is healthy, she can see a bright future.
“When I’m alone, my daughter and I will continue chatting together. She makes me laugh a lot. She talks to me about lots of things and it always makes me laugh. We joke around together.
“When she’s old enough, I will take her to school. My dream is to see my children educated.”
You can help transform lives in Chad by donating today.