Why is malnutrition an issue in Zanzibar?
With the average income in Zanzibar of less than $1 per day, and high ratios of children per family, many families are struggling to survive. In the lower socio-economic strata, where the majority of our students are from, women tend to have many children, cook over open fires, carry water long distances and wash by hand. When families are struggling to survive, their is little time left over for parenting.
How Can CEFZ Help?
We certainly can't help everyone, but we can help our students - at least while they are in school. When we suspected our students weren't receiving enough nourishment at home, we surveyed them on eating habits. Our research suggests that when students arrived home, there was very often no food or simple bread for them to eat. in July 2015, we sent five of our smallest and weakest off to a consultant pediatrician who diagnosed all of them with malnutrition. Since this, CEFZ have moved from offering simple snacks during school times to a rigorous nutrition program which includes a hearty breakfast and full lunch, with snacks such as fruit and eggs, and other nutritious goodies throughout the day, including a glass of milk for every child.
We don't just stop with our students. Our female teachers are working with student families to educate women on nutritional issues for all of their children, to help them learn where they can find access to free birth control if they desire, pregnancy health checks and receive advice on infant care.
Educate a Girl and She Will Raise a Healthy, Educated Family
An educated girl grows up to not only be employable, and have choices available to her. Also importantly, she learns how to look after her children better - to have her prenatal checks and give birth in a hospital, immunise and nourish her children so they can be the best they can be physically, and academically. Send them to school when they reach school age, and seek medical care when needed.
You might be reading this and be thinking 'of course', but here in Zanzibar many, many women have received very little or even no education. With no access to income, many women have no choice to free themselves from damaging situations. Many of our students mothers or aunties have large families, and struggle to survive. Just helping these families understand their children need to be in school everyday, need to arrive on time, need to be clean, and need to get enough food, love and sleep to thrive is a mission. Our teachers work tirelessly with our student families to achieve this - they do a great job at it too.
Some of our students have been clinically diagnosed with stunted growth due to poor nutrition. Unfortunately, if infants and young children do not receive adequate nutrition they are unable to realise their full level of intelligence - body weight and height will catch up, but intelligence never will. Another way poverty becomes a continual cycle. At CEFZ, we also find that our students who suffer from malnutrition also have learning difficulties.
When the first cases of malnutrition surfaced among our students, we began asking them what they ate at home - often the reply was only white bread and tea at night time (or for some, simply nothing) - in the mornings most ate nothing before school. We all know that learning and hunger are not good partners, so we decided to ramp up our student food program.
Just USD 8 per Week to Help Nourish a Deserving Child
The Creative Education Foundation, Zanzibar