A Heartfelt Thank You from Malawi
Photo by Marcia Fingal
The video camera pans across a group of mothers and their young children gathered in Mphunzi, a village in the east African country of Malawi. One woman speaks on behalf of all: “I thank RCA for timely funding, which has helped the kids get porridge and to improve their health. May the Lord bless you richly.”
The mothers who gathered wanted to express their gratitude for a feeding program that greatly improves their children’s health—and sometimes even saves their lives.
RCA Africa mission supervisor Derrick Jones shot the footage. The woman who speaks in the video clip, Jane Chikakuda, is co-coordinator of community development for the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. She oversees the synod’s RCA-sponsored Malawi Children’s Feeding Program, which is offered in four locations in central Malawi. The RCA has funded the program since 2005; each year, RCA churches and individuals send $20,000 to support it.
Through the program, women learn to care for severely underweight, malnourished children under the age of five who are either infected with HIV/AIDS or have lost one or both parents to the disease. During Malawi’s season of drought and food shortage, the program cares for 120 malnourished children who are affected by extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS. The difficult food months run from December or January through August or September.
In its first five years, the feeding program reduced the number of hunger-related childhood deaths in the area by 75 percent.
In Malawi, malnutrition among children under age five, especially in rural communities, is a major cause of death. In its first five years, the feeding program reduced the number of hunger-related childhood deaths in the area by 75 percent.
One story of survival
In January 2013, Logeso’s mother, who was HIV-positive, gave birth to him and his twin brother. She was weak and did not produce enough milk for both boys. After a few weeks, Logeso’s mother and brother both died, leaving Logeso in the care of his grandmother. Extremely malnourished, Logeso was near death too.
Upon learning of the situation, workers for Malawi’s Ministry of Health recommended Logeso and his grandmother to the Malawi Children’s Feeding Program.
Juliet Kanduna, the local community development facilitator from Nkhoma Synod, made sure Logeso received goat’s milk and porridge made with likuni phala, a high protein supplement. Every two weeks a worker from the Ministry of Health weighed him and provided basic healthcare and monitoring. This included measuring his upper arm circumference, a way to assess his nutritional status.
After 10 months, Logeso was growing and gaining weight, although he still suffered from malnutrition and was underweight for his age. Kanduna was hopeful that he would reach a normal weight in a few months and learn to walk.
“There are few things that tug at the soul in a more palpable way than a mother who cannot feed her child,” says Marcia Fingal, who visited the nutrition program on behalf of her church last summer. Fingal, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, attends Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York City. Marble Collegiate provided desks for students in Malawi and South Africa, and Fingal and Marble Collegiate pastor Shari Brink traveled to see the ministries there firsthand.
“I felt optimistic about the work being done there,” says Fingal.
“I saw children at different stages on the nutrition spectrum and caregivers showing up to this program to learn new ways of caring for their little ones. The staff told us about the important work of teaching caregivers how to correctly prepare likuni phala, the high energy protein supplement the children take; how to grow local, nutritive crops; and how to maintain proper home health and sanitation care—all crucial steps to saving young lives.”
Kanduna, the community development facilitator who supervised Logeso’s recovery, also trains women in how to grow nutrition-rich, drought-resistant crops like soya, groundnuts, pigeon peas, maize, and cassava, and how to make more nutritious meals.
“There is a chronic poverty that cripples so much of the developing world, and as fervent followers of Jesus Christ, I believe we have a mandate to do something,” says Fingal. “Supporting this feeding project is a small step.”
Watch the video of mothers and children in Mphunzi village: www.rca.org/malawifeeding.
Pray for health and food security for the children served by this program and their families.
Give to the Malawi Children’s Feeding program: www.rca.org/malawifeeding.