Mana Mamba sits on a straw mat with two of her children outside the one-room hut where they live. Khayelihle Lukhele, her 20-month-old toddler, has just begun standing up even though he should be learning to walk by now. Photo: WFP/Siphiwe Mohammed
Life has never been easy for Mana Mamba, a 24-year-old single mother raising four children in improverished rural Swaziland. But it’s getting easier thanks to a family feeding programme which has spared her youngest from malnutrition while helping his siblings stay in school.
LOBAMBA--Mana Mamba, 24, is raising four children on her own in a one-room hut with a leaky roof. “We don’t sleep when it rains,” she says. “We stand. I wake the children up so we can find a sheltered spot under the roof. Sometimes we stay there all night,” she said.
Her youngest child, 20-month-old Khayelihle Lukhele, has only just started pulling himself up onto his own two feet. By now, he should be learning to walk.
“The nurses at the local health centre kept telling me that he wasn’t eating well. They said he needed nutritious food to be healthy and strong. But I had no way to give it to him,” said Mana.
But she does now. At a local feeding centre supplied by WFP, all of Mana’s children now receive regular meals which have already made a visible impact. Khayelihle may be off to a late start, but he’s set to catch up fast.
Ensuring people get enough of the right kinds of food is one of the most important things we can do to help them climb out of poverty. That’s especially important for children, who can suffer irreparable harm if they don’t get enough vitamins and nutrients during the first 1,000 days of their lives. Find out more
A hard life
Mana has never had it easy. Her parents died when she was young and she has no other family to help her when times are rough. Last year, the father of her children left for Johannesburg with the promise of sending money back once he found a job. But Mana says that hasn’t happened.
Single, uneducated and unemployed, Mana subsisted on corn harvested from her uncle’s farm. When that ran out, she’d gather wild vegetables in the woods and borrow money from the neighbours. When that wasn’t enough, she’d skip meals so her children could eat.
Now, Mana says her family’s main source of food is the Khubasa Neighbourhood Care Point, a feeding centre supplied by WFP, where her children eat nutritious meals of corn-soya blend, bread and beans. To earn food for herself, Mana helps fetch the water, gather firewood and mill the corn.
The Khubasa Care Point is among over 264 feeding centres in Swaziland where families like Mana’s can turn when they’ve run out of options. Provided with food by WFP in partnership with the government, NGOs and other UN agencies, the centres are run by neighbourhood volunteers with the help of parents like Mana.
Cradling Khayelihle after his meal, Mana remarks on the difference the food has made for all of her children. “I can see a huge change. He’s gained a lot of weight, and he looks happy and healthy.”
As for the rest of her children—an eight year old girl, a seven year old boy and an adopted 15-year-old niece—food from the centre is giving them the strength to go to school, an opportunity Mana never had.
“I’ve never had the means to make a proper living,” says Mana. “The most I’ve ever hoped for was to be able to grow tomatoes and sell them at the market.”