Nutritional Supplements Sew Health And Hope In Zimbabwe

Shylet Kupara and her husband run a small tailoring business from their home in Harare. Since Shylet tested HIV positive three months ago, she has lost weight - and also the strength and energy to sew. "Every day I wish I could wake up and be able to work, to add something to my life, but the illness brings me down," she says.

Having joined WFP's Health and Nutrition Programme however, Shylet feels a renewed sense of hope. She now gets a nutritious, fortified food supplement called Super Cereal, as well as family food rations that complement the medical treatment she is receiving. 

“I know how important the Super Cereal is for me to improve and regain weight,” she says. “I think it will help me feel better. 

Shylet wants to regain the strength to sew uniforms, shorts, petticoats and sun hats, as she has done for the past two decades. Her dream is to own a business like ENBEE or Naganje, two large Zimbabwean brands that make school uniforms. 

“I want to grow my business, buy proper sewing machines, employ others and teach them the tailoring skills I know,” she says. “I prefer making shorts and trousers because they are easier to produce. It only costs $1 to make shorts and $2 to make ¾ trousers. 

Daily medication
Shylet’s 11 year-old son has become her treatment assistant and helps remind her to take her daily medication.“He said I am not the only person in the world to test positive, and that he would support me,” she says. “I’m happy to get the food from WFP because it means I can use the money I would normally spend on food to pay for other things, like school fees.” 

WFP is supporting some 43,000 malnourished patients and their families in Zimbabwe through the Health & Nutrition Programme. Since its inception in 2006, the programme has expanded to cover 21 districts and WFP Zimbabwe Country Director Felix Bamezon says he is trying to increase this to meet the demand.Shylet standing in front of large bags of wfp food

Nutritious diet
“It’s widely acknowledged that a nutritious diet is a critical component of HIV treatment, it helps patients to respond better to treatment,” Bamezon says. “The programme also supports other groups such as pregnant or breast-feeding mothers, malnourished children under 5 years old, and TB patients.” 

In addition to the monthly 10kg bag of Super Cereal individual patients receive, they get a family food ration of mealie meal (maize), pulses and vegetable oil if their household is food insecure. These rations are given out by way of in-kind distributions or electronic vouchers with a cash component in urban areas. WFP is looking for ways to expand the use of electronic vouchers to peri-urban and rural areas, however is limited by operational constraints. In order to ensure consistent quality and quantity for beneficiaries, there must be constant availability of food commodities in reliable shops.