World Food Day: Strengthening nutrition services in Sierra Leone for mothers and children

This year marks a special World Food Day for Health Poverty Action as we launch our UK Aid Match appeal Happy Mums, Happy Tums to raise money for over 6,000 women and children in rural Sierra Leone so they can have better nutrition support.

Making sure your child gets a nutritionally balanced diet can be difficult for all parents, but in rural Sierra Leone there are added challenges. For example, there are often multiple barriers to accessing the local health clinic for check-ups to prevent and treat malnutrition. Some populations are 5 miles away from the nearest health centre and don’t have transport to get there.

In the communities where we work the most nutritious local food is often sold at markets because they can’t afford to put the food aside for their own families. There are high rates of malnutrition in children under five in Sierra Leone, with 71% experiencing anaemia due to a lack of iron rich food such as meat and green vegetables.

Our Happy Mums, Happy Tums appeal aims to improve the support given to families in a number of sustainable ways so that communities are empowered to create long-lasting change that works for them without the need for further funding beyond the project. Health Poverty Action will be working alongside locals and the government to help set up low-cost vegetable gardens to grow more iron and Vitamin A-rich vegetables, and providing breeding pairs of chickens, goats and sheep to create community ‘pass-on’ schemes for a continuous source of protein. We’ll also work with communities to arrange cooking demonstrations and classes to ensure people are empowered with the knowledge to make the most of nutritious local foods like peppers, tomatoes and cassava leaves – a green leafy vegetable rich in protein, minerals and vitamins.

Health Poverty Action has been working alongside local communities and health facilities in northern Sierra Leone since 2005, and we’ve been able to help facilitate the training of community health workers there. Community health workers are respected members of the community who can spot the initial signs of ill health and assist in getting people access to their local clinic- working as a link between difficult to reach populations and their health centre.

Building on our close relationship with the 115 community health workers in the Bombali and Karene districts where the Happy Mums, Happy Tums project will take place, the project will also involve facilitating training for these volunteers so they can spot signs of malnutrition among people in their area.

Tukamara and Saidu’s story

Tukamara is grandmother to Saidu who is now almost three years old. Tukamara struggles financially to get her grandchildren the food she’d like to feed them, and as their mother has sadly passed away, they can’t be breast-fed.

Tukamara said, “A community health worker in my village came to my house and saw this boy. She told me that Saidu was malnourished, and told me about the feeding service at the health centre…I will not relent – I will keep bringing Saidu here again until he is better.”

After being diagnosed as malnourished at the health centre, Saidu was given nutritious food supplements to help him recover.

Tukumara has high hopes for her grandchild in the future; “I hope Saidu will be a doctor one day – that is my hope and prayer.”

Donate to the Happy Mums, Happy Tums UK Aid Match appeal before the 31st December and the UK government will match your donation- helping more families like Tukamara and Saidu get the nutritional support they need.

Your donation will go towards Health Poverty Action’s work where it’s needed most, and the UK government’s matched funding, up to £2 million, will go directly to the Happy Mums, Happy Tums appeal project in Sierra Leone.