Children are the future pillars of any nation however; it takes healthy children to build a stable nation.
One big mistake done by the most parents and guardians is failure to establish favorable environment for their children to access proper nutrition at an early stage of growth.
Nutrition is intrinsic to the development of children’s growth – which essentially helps groom children’s minds.
Tanzania, just like other nations; faces the challenge of having cases of malnourished children.
On that backdrop, Feed the Children as the name suggests, takes on an obligation to improve food and nutrition among pupils in Kisarawe District in particular.
While we are still in the week of International Day of African Child celebrated every 16th of June; the Country Director of the organization has a lot to share with public concerning their fundamental roles and efforts taken to improve the health and nutrition of children.
About: Feed the Children
Dr Lorri says that; Feed the Children is an organization dealing with improvement of school children’s nutrition and currently extending its realm by also incorporating children who have just stopped breastfeeding.
As an international organization with its headquarter in Oklahoma, United States of America (USA), it operates in 10 countries across the world. Closer home in Africa, it is available in only four countries; Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
He adds that, the organization operates in Kisarawe district, Pwani region and now has its plans underway to move to Morogoro region.
Feed the Children operates under four core pillars; food and nutrition, education, water and sanitation and livelihoods.
“Improving livelihoods is done into two areas; community and schools based interventions.
Within the communities, we extremely target improving livelihoods of parents and guardians from nearly the same settings that these school children dwell, so that they are self-reliant, financially stable and able to support their communities particularly providing nourished food to children. For instance; Kisarawe has a number of 60 financed Village Savings and Loan Groups to enable them engage in several income-generating activities such as agriculture and other petty businesses.
At schools, there are eight schools out of 30 which, engage in livestock keeping, poultry farming and bee keeping activities,” says Dr Lorri.
Education and Livelihoods Manager at Feed the Children, Simon Nanyaro says that, “In here, we engage in two ways; structural maintenance through refurbishing damaged or dilapidated school premises and training of teachers while adhering to Ministry of Education, Science, technology and Vocational Training standards and guidelines.”
Food and nutrition
Dr Lorri says, this is a core pillar for the organization provides food and nutrition trainings to care groups – tasked with taking utmost care of children who have just stopped breastfeeding at the age of two. Trainings given to these care groups are in form of apprenticeship and has been designated to have ripple effect, where first-hand trainees will pass knowledge on to others to help with grooming children. The organization has over 1,000 care group members found in Kisarawe District.
Water and sanitation
Food and Nutrition Program Manager, Sylvia Imalike says: “We support availability of clean and safe water by drilling wells or search for development partners who can initiate water projects at schools in Kisarawe and community as whole.
There are also “WASH” (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) bringing together children from different classes to engage in water and sanitation activities under the supervision of their health teachers. Through these clubs, children learn how to make local dustbins, do general cleanliness and sanitation. They are also, by using locally available resources within their surroundings, learn to purify water (they use ashes for purification).”
Based on your experience, what could be the most common violence perpetrated against children?
Efforts taken to provide children with education and proper nutrition could be meaningless if they are insecure. In Kisarawe, we have found out that there are cases of children neglected by their parents, depriving them of parental care at early stage of their growth by handling the duty over grandparents.
To also everyone’s surprise, we observed child homosexuality acts among one another at school.
What is the position of your organization in combating violence against children?
Feed the Children in partnership with C-SEMA Tanzania, sat down with several stakeholders; teachers, education coordinators, local governments’ chairpersons and representative from gender desk in police and conducted an intensive awareness-raising training about violence against children.
We placed the happy and sad suggestion boxes around the school compounds to give children freedom of expression by writing anything they face while at school and put it inside the boxes.
It is upon the supervising teachers and children to decide when to open boxes and see what were just written on pieces of paper. Major concerns that were raised from the boxes will have to be settled immediately if possible.
Denying a child eating nutritious meals that are integral part of their growth is also violence. What’s take on this?
As an organization, we understand that there are communities that yet keep girls child out of reach of some food stuffs for a pretext of taboos. Food stuffs such as; chicken gizzard, eggs — which are full of nutrients – are seen as masculine food and men always are privileged, this is just another form of violence against children in today’s world.
Responding to the vice, we often donate fortified maize flour to our pilot schools, which is very significant effort towards children’s growth.
What do you do in lobbying policy and legislative framework review in an effort to promote and protect children’s rights?
“We are working closely with Government, too. We have been consulting parents, guardians and Kisarawe district’s office that, there should be an immediate review and changes in policies, legislations and guidelines to accommodate a necessity of parents and guardians cost sharing when it comes to improve nutrition of their children.
We also work with Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC) which is our regulator,” confirmed Nanyaro.
How is African child supposed to be protected against covid-19 pandemic?
Slyvia says; “Not only covid-19, any other type of disease has adverse effects on health and nutrition of children. The only way to keep children safe, is to make them continue eating nourished food.”
She also adds that, as compliant with respective Ministry of Health guidelines, we should improve children’s health by adhering to also scientifically approved and advised local medication such as taking in a well mixture of ginger, honey and garlic.
What seem to hinder efforts to protect the rights of child in Tanzania?
Most of communities are still conservatists, keeping the hold of harmful and old-fashioned traditions, believing girl child should not be taken to school and instead be married, she should not eat certain type of food stuff.
Second, lack of awareness has been also a huge hindrance. It seems like there are some parents who are unaware of the basic rights of their children and ways to protect them.
On Government side, there are draconian laws that infringe rights of children straightforward and they need to be amended, cemented Dr, Lorri.
What does this International Day of African Child mean to you?
“The observation of this particular day gives us much courage to continue do more than what are doing now,” hinted Dr, Lorri.
What message would you like to share with the rest of the Tanzanians ahead of this day?
Dr, Lorri concludes: “Let us make sure we create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.”