Zeinab Shale, a 27 year old mother of two young boys resides in Balambala Division, 140 Kms North of Garissa town with a total population of 13,071, female population is estimated at 49% while children > 5 constitutes 20%. Zeinab is the sole breadwinner, runs a village shop that supports her two boys, after separating with her husband.Garissa is compounded by drought every 2-5 years, with year 2009 having far reaching effect to inhabitants, forcing a significant percentage of the population to depend on external relief. Balambala is a predominantly pastoralist community and has one health facility. Major cases of illness are referred to Garissa District General Hospital in Garissa town.
After the birth of her first child she was faced with the challenge of breastfeeding her child. The cultural practice of Balambala people is that initiation of breastfeeding is undertaken after three days to allow the breast to start yielding milk. Before then the child is fed on water and cattle/goat/camel milk. As a result, her first born was always sick with vomiting, diarrheal and had kwashiorkor. The child took long time to crawl and even walk. All this happened due to lack knowledge and skills in practicing recommended breast feeding practices. " I used to take 3 days in a week visiting the local dispensary, which was always congested since it is the only facility in the area...? says Zainabu. Due to time taken seeking treatment at the health facility, her shop remained closed for long hours thus losing business. Besides, this being a rural health facility, it lacked most of the drugs prescribed forcing her to purchase them from pharmacies.
However, under ARC project funded by OFDA/USAID, Zeinab and other eleven pregnant and lactating women underwent one week training on optimal infant and young child feeding practices at Balambala centre. When she gave birth to her second baby she practiced exclusive breastfeeding for six months after which she introduced the child to complementary feeding. In addition she joined up with other 11 mothers to form a support group whose aim is to share on progress of their children and remind themselves on infant feeding practices. She has also grown steadily to a facilitator of mother to mother support group in her community. ?I have not had breastfeeding problems with my second born child since I strictly followed instructions from the training and began breastfeeding my child immediately after birth. At 2 years I still care for my child, provide thick porridge, steadily increasing frequency, amount variety and changing texture of food with time..My child is healthy and I only take him to the dispensary for routine checkups. I am now able to continue with my business and now earn Kes 1,000 (equivalent to $12) compared to Kes 500 (equivalent to $ 5) or even less when I had my first born child?, says Zeinab.
Zeinab?s health has also improved. Lack of breastfeeding too affected her health. ?When the child is healthy, the mother is healthy too? concludes Zainabu.