about the author
National Public Information/Reports Officer
Siphiwe Mohammed is based in Mbabane as a communications officer for WFP Swaziland.
Zinhle Shabangu (21) wants only the best for her five-month old baby girl. So the HIV-positive mother enrolled at Mbabane Government Hospital to get treatment to minimize the risk of her child becoming infected by the virus. Zinhle also gets special food to make both her and her baby strong.
Zinhle was enrolled in the hospital’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme when she was found to be HIV positive. She also started to get special food from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure both she and her unborn child were well nourished through pregnancy and treatment process.
“I’d just started showing when I first came for my prenatal visit and the nurses advised me to take an HIV test”, she says. “When I got the results, they counseled me and told me I could prevent my child from having HIV by enrolling in the PMTCT programme.”
The nurses also advised her to breastfeed her child for the first six months. Her child, a girl, was born in January and, to her mother’s great joy, tested HIV negative.
Like all such clients in the 11 health facilities offering nutrition support in the country, Zinhle was told that she needed to increase the quantity of food she ate in order to gain weight and strength.
“I want my child to have a better life than I had growing up, and I don’t want her to be sick if I can help it,” she says, breastfeeding the infant in the hospital’s busy entrance hall.
Under an initiative called Food by Prescription, she receives a monthly ration of fortified corn soya blend or Super Cereal. The scheme is supported by WFP and the Government of Swaziland through the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), the country’s principal recipient of funding from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Taberculosis and Malaria.
As many of the programme’s beneficiaries are breadwinners, WFP and NERCHA also supply them with family rations of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil during their routine monthly visits to hospitals and health centres.
“The food is very helpful as it helps me to produce enough milk to feed my baby and keep her healthy and strong”, says Zinhle who has herself regained weight.
Zinhle lost her parents some six years ago and lives with an aunt and cousins in Corporation, an urban location on the outskirts of the capital, Mbabane.
“My aunt and cousins can now rely on me to contribute towards the family instead of relying on them for everything” she says.
Zinhle, who was forced to drop out of school after her parents died, is looking for a job as a domestic worker. Now six months old, her baby will soon be starting on solids and no longer needs to be breastfed all the time.