about the author
Spokesperson for South and East Asia
Marcus Prior, a former journalist, was WFP's East Africa spokesperson before coming to Bangkok in 2010 to head up public relations in South and East Asia.
Flora Mloli is 26 and a tiny wisp of a woman. Her two-year-old daughter Neema clings to her, as if her life depended on it. And perhaps it does – Neema grabs for her mother’s breast every few seconds.
DODOMA -- Flora has two other children, aged eight and six, and she and her husband are struggling to get by. The short rains were not as good as they hoped and their millet crop suffered. They are now working as hired hands in the fields of their neighbours in order to earn enough Tanzanian shillings to put food on the family table every day.
One meal a day
“We really only have one meal each day at home,” Flora says. “Some days I don’t have anything at all to make sure the children have enough to eat.”
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If there is a bright side, it is that her daughter Neema is enrolled in a nutrition programme run by the local authorities and supported by the UN World Food Programme. For moderately malnourished young children, pregnant woman and breast-feeding mothers in the Dodoma district of Tanzania, WFP provides a monthly take-home ration, to help guard against malnutrition. It’s part of a nationwide effort to combat chronic malnutrition, a silent destroyer of human potential.
Children gain weight
At the Handali health centre, about an hour east of Dodoma, Flora was one of about 30 mothers who queued with their young children for the monthly screening – to check progress and monitor any deterioration.
Although Flora complains that despite the food rations she receives, she still faces a massive struggle to feed her family, she readily admits that Neema has gained weight since joining the programme.
With chronic malnutrition rates in the Dodoma region well above 40 percent, this kind of work does not grab headlines, but is vital. Chronic malnourishment drains the lifeblood of a nation, a region, a child – not only does it stymie physical growth, but mental development, too. Types of malnutrition
A child who is malnourished in his or her early years can never make up the lost ground. It’s a tragic truth which continues to condemn millions to a life which has been compromised since the start.
Neema at least is being given a chance to live to her fullest potential. It’s a small step, but a significant one.