n honor of Mother’s Day, we reached out to IMA Program Officer Inge Sthreshley and asked her some questions about her work in the field and what that means for mothers like herself.
Through your work with IMA, what services do you provide to mothers and children in the community?
The main focus of our nutrition work is to help mothers adopt best feeding practices for their children. This means we work primarily with community volunteers who are trained in best feeding practices. They, in turn, interact with women in their communities and share their knowledge and help mothers adopt these practices, especially families who have malnourished children. We also train the community volunteers in best gardening practices so families can have greater food security and nutritious food at home for their children. This is coupled with water and sanitation messaging.
Another key component to our nutrition work is to train community volunteers in how to screen children in their community for malnutrition and refer them to the health center for further evaluation by a nurse. This is an important activity. Without active screening out in the community, a large number of children and their caregivers would not receive the treatment and counseling they need. The earlier a child is referred, the better the outcome.
In addition to this work done at the community level, we reinforce the capacity of health center staff to carry out healthy baby clinics (preschool consultations) where babies and children are weighed and their growth monitored. This involves equipping health centers with anthropometric materials like scales and measuring boards, and also providing the training and growth monitoring forms, and nutrition education materials. For pregnant women, there is nutrition messaging given at prenatal consultations and treatment with iron and folic acid.
Our biggest challenge is getting nutrition on the map. A lot of attention is given to equipment, drugs, and vaccinations – nutrition not so much, even though 50% of childhood mortality can be attributed to malnutrition. So we also work with head doctors and nurses in the health zones to track their nutrition indicators and increase their support for preventative nutrition activities out in the community.
As a mother, how does it make you feel to be able to serve other mothers and children in your community?
It is a great privilege for me to be able to work on nutrition activities that help improve the lives of mothers and children here in Congo. I raised two children here in Congo. I was very dedicated to my children and providing them with the best I could offer. When I put my youngest in college and came back to Congo, even though I had basically always worked part time on the interface between nutrition and agriculture, I was still at a bit of a loss as to what to do – what was next. Then I realized that I could now put that same commitment and time I had given to raising my own children into helping other mothers and children here in Congo. Good nutrition is fundamental to a good start in life. To wake up every morning and have this opportunity through the ASSP project to reach so many mothers and children is very rewarding. I work with a great team. It is beyond what I ever dreamed.