Growing healthy from community nutrition club

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Huong (first right), her daughter Hieu and her sister-in-law are in their nutrition vegetable garden.

"There is no mother, poor though, who would resign herself to her increasingly stunted child. However, not until my youngest child, Hieu, was nearly two years old, I had the hope to change her malnutrition," says Huong, 36, a mother of three, living in Nong Son mid-land district, Quang Nam province.

“At that time I attended the first meeting where mothers discussed setting up a nutrition club with World Vision’s assistance in our village,” she reveals.

Hieu looked like a tiny bottle when she was born. She weighed two-and-a-half kilos, underweight by half of kilo as a normal newborn,” she adds.

After staying seven days at the commune health station, more time than an easy birth, the mother carried her newborn child home. The rainy season had just begun. The road home, sticky with mud, seemed longer as she was worrying about the coming between-crop period.

The farmer mother who had just given birth had more reasons for her anxieties.

Her family now had a newborn member, but, underweight and unwell. Her two sons, a 1st grader and a 5th grader, needed pens, notebooks and new clothes for their new school year. It seemed only a handful of rice left in the earthen jar in the kitchen. Again, she and her husband had to borrow rice to eat. Then, they would pay back to lenders with possible money by working as hired hands in other’s farmland.

Huong’s family has neither an inch of ground for planting rice, nor farmland for cash crops. She and her husband work as tenants for 700-square-metre rice field of her parents-in-law. Floods come to her village almost every year. The wide river, the main water resource for daily use in dry season, becomes a large danger along her village in rainy days. When big flood would rise up, villagers have to evacuate their children to schools on higher ground.

World Vision and local partners have found Huong’s family and others who have such malnourished children and lack sufficient income.

This was also what Huong and 17 other mothers discussed at the first meeting, and they decided to establish a nutrition club in their village in September four years ago.

The nutrition club now includes 26 mothers and caregivers having children under five. The club members participate in monthly meetings in every second day of the month. They selected the date of the first meeting for club meeting schedule as a reminder for their commitment to care for their children and to better their living conditions.

At the meetings, the mothers receive training on childcare, hygiene, prevention of common diseases, vegetable gardening and nutrition practices to cook nutritious meals for their children with home-grown products.

Huong also received a breeding cow to improve her family’s livelihood two years ago, and they share the cow with another family.

"If my family hadn’t received support from World Vision, my husband and I would still be struggling in other’s farmland. And we wouldn’t know when we could have enough money to buy a breeding cow,” the mother shares.

"Rearing cows now becomes our livelihood. We just have a six-month calf. Cows are money for my family and our children’s education,” she adds with a smile.

“My child, Hieu, has escaped malnutrition since I’ve applied the learning from our nutrition club. She will enter Grade 1 for the coming new school year. My child has grown healthy from our community nutrition club,” the rural mother says.

The nutrition club has also run a self-managed credit scheme to improve club members’ household economics. Each member contributes 10,000 dong (47 US cents) of monthly savings to the nutrition club as a revolving loan of funding pool for other families and short-handed ones.

They use small loans without interest to make their living by planting cash crops and rearing poultry. Borrowers pay back the loans to the club in due time by selling their homegrown products.

Rural mothers have chance not only to sustain their children’s nutrition and home economics but also to support each other to overcome poverty with community ownership.

Huong is one of over 600 mothers from 24 community nutrition clubs supported by the World Vision’s Nong Son Area Development Programme.

By the end of 2013, the percentage of malnourished children in her community was 19.5 per cent. Compared to four years ago, this percentage decreased 5 per cent.

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