Updates from the Field

Updates from the Field

In the Zeina community of Mali, home gardening had virtually stopped because the gardens that women living there had worked so hard to tend often yielded a meager harvest, barely enough to feed their families. To address this, Helen Keller International empowered 70 women in Zeina with tools, seeds, and a brood of poultry through its Homestead Food Production program. Now, each woman has her own plot to cultivate and selects which plants she prefers for each growing season from a variety of higher quality seeds provided by HKI.  The cultivation techniques HKI shared with these women have also led to great improvements in the amounts and types of crops that are grown, including  the orange-fleshed sweet potato, a root vegetable that is bursting with vitamin A to protect eyesight and boost immunity.  Mrs. Kone, the head of the village’s women’s group, is a strong and charismatic leader who keeps the women organized and cooperating, and is deeply grateful for HKI’s support. In response to overwhelming community demand, HKI has extended its agricultural training to reach 162 additional women and the women of Zeina will teach others in neighboring communities all they have learned about growing and maintaining nutritious food for their families.

Our team got a taste of a day in the life of community drug distributors- the volunteers who are the heart and soul of the work being done globally in the fight againstNeglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).  Their work is very detailed and time consuming, involving constant motion as they  are in charge of conducting a census, providing treatment to all eligible people, collecting data on the campaign, and  submitting their final reports to the health centers during mass drug distributions. Focusing on three areas in Cameroon, our team set off to collect information about how community drug distributors provide treatment efforts for five Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).  For community drug distributors with many people to treat, it can take weeks to do this job well.  All distributors are volunteers - they do this for the love of their community and the health of their country.

Fatoumata Sylla prepares to perform trachoma surgery in MaliThere is only one woman in the entire Kayes region of Mali who is trained to perform surgery.  Her name is Fatoumata Sylla.  Born and raised in Kayes, Fatoumata returned home from Bamako, the capital of Mali, after completing her training in ophthalmic studies.  While she was at school, Fatoumata learned to perform a 20-minute surgery that preserves the sight of those who suffer from blinding trachoma- a painful disease that afflicts many people in Fatoumata’s community and throughout Mali.  Now that she is back in Kayes, Fatoumata volunteers at her local health center, which is supported by Helen Keller International. She continues to learn from Daniel Terra, the senior ophthalmic nurse at the center, and will eventually perform trachoma surgeries without assistance so she can help in saving the sight of even more people in her community.

HKI's Neglected Tropical Diseases team visits with a trachiasis surgery patient six months later in Burkina FasoHKI's Neglected Tropical Diseases team collaborate with the Ministry of Health in Burkina Faso conduct a six-month follow-up visit at the home of a patient who received trichiasis surgery on both eyelids in the Koudougou district.  The surgery is a key step to preserving sight and preventing vision loss due to blinding trachoma. These follow-up visits are a very important part of ensuring the quality of the surgery and typically include an eye exam, removal of bandages/sutures, and listening to the patient’s perspective on their recovery process.


HKI's Neglected Tropical Diseases team works to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in Burkina FasoHKI Burkina Faso’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) team pose in front of a poster promoting the Ministry of Health's lymphatic filariasis elimination program in a health center in the district of Sapouy.  HKI has a long history of supporting Burkina Faso’s NTD elimination efforts, including support of disease mapping, surgery, disease management, mass drug distribution, and impact assessments.


During a week-long nutrition workshop, mothers from Mozambique like Anabela Nhandy (pictured left) learned how to prepare vitamin A rich foods for their children under the age of 5. One of these foods is the orange-fleshed sweet potato, which mothers learned to prepare in a variety of ways. Mothers also learned about the nutritional benefits of vitamin A and each mother will share what she has learned with 10 neighbors, helping to spread the message throughout their communities that vitamin A saves sight and life.


ofsp_mozambique_nov2013In the town of Mpondo, Mozambique, mothers learn how to plant orange-fleshed sweet potatoes through practice. They plant a small plot to rapidly multiply vines, and these vines are then distributed throughout the community, so local families can grow and eat vitamin A rich sweet potatoes. Each mother is tasked with teaching 10 of her neighbors about how orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can boost the immunity and save the sight of their children.


HKI Indonesia  and our partners celebrated World Sight Day with free vision screenings for twenty elementary students in East Java. Check out the photos on Facebook!


update_octIn the rural village of Puta Mari, Bangladesh, husbands and wives discuss the changes in their lives since beginning Homestead Food Production through Mondelez International Foundation-sponsored Project Laser Beam. Women shared their happiness and appreciation for the new knowledge they have acquired through the program and for their new positions as income earners in the family. Men expressed feeling less anxious about money now that their wives are also earning some income. Several men noted that they no longer worry about how they will afford expensive vegetables from the market because they are eating food their wives have grown. Mothers-in-law standing nearby even chimed in with lessons they had learned from the sessions and how they are now encouraging their daughters-in-law to take more food during pregnancy to ensure a healthy, full-weight baby.


update_HFPIn rural Bagerhat, Bangladesh, Monrima feeds her chickens and chicks next to her new poultry shed. These sheds, built with assistance from the Homestead Food Production (HFP) program, are better ventilated creating a more hospitable environment for laying eggs. Through the HFP program, Monrima learned about chick separation and poultry vaccination to increase the health and survival of her poultry. The eggs her family consumes daily gives their diet the additional protein needed to fight undernutrition. 


ChildSight_BTS2013Back to school is right around the corner and HKI is helping students in New York City start the school year with clear vision. ChildSight® recently screened 100 students from Manhattan and Brooklyn for refractive error, providing several of them with the prescription glasses they need to reach their full potential this school year. Check out a special Back to School interview with ChildSight® New York Program Manager Tonya Daniels on NY1 News.


MNP_CambodiaHKI's Micronutrient Powder (MNP) program helps keep children in Cambodia healthy and strong. By mixing sachets of healthy nutrients distributed by HKI into the food they prepare for their families, parents are giving their children extra nutrients to help them grow and fight off disease.  The MNP program also includes an educational component to teach mothers about nutrition and complementary feeding.  Read about Ms. Hou Yong and Ms. Pok Somaly, two mothers whose families have benefitted from the MNP program on Seed to Sight!


Mozambique_OFSPHKI teaches mothers in Chiuta, Mozambique, how to cultivate and multiply vines of the Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato. Rich in vitamin A, the OFSP is a more nutritious alternative to the local sweet potato, which does not provide an adequate amount of vitamin A to keep children healthy and help them fight off disease. Mothers who learn to cultivate these vines will share this knowledge with other mothers in their communities, providing many more families with nutritious, vitamin A rich alternative that helps prevent blindness and boost immunity.


HKI-Mozambique recently taught 25 mothers in Mpondo and Nsemene about the best ways to feed their children to help them become healthy and strong. These "lead mothers" will return to their villages and share what they have learned with other mothers in their commumities. The 25 lead mothers that nurses and community health workers trained in Mpondo and Nsemene will reach 250 families in their communities. By the end of September, HKI will have trained 337 lead mothers throughout the area, who will reach a total 3,000 families in the Chiuta District of Mozambique with vital information about how to keep their children healthy.

HKI recently attended the 2014 planning meeting for the Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program of Guinea, which took place from July 24-26 in Conakry. Led by the Ministry of Health of Guinea and HKI, the meeting highlighted the progress the program has made in conducting studies to understand the prevalence of NTDs within the country. Drawing upon results of these studies, the meeting helped HKI and our partners, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Research Triangle Institute International’s ENVISION Program, establish the best and most effective treatment strategies for the eliminating these terrible diseases. Guinea has set a goal to eliminate several NTDs, such as trachoma, river blindness, and lymphatic filariaisis, by the year 2020.

Shahanara’s chickens are producing more eggs than ever before! They have increased their egg production since she built a new shed with improved ventilation with assistance from HKI. Through the Homestead Food Production program, women gain additional income from selling their garden’s surplus after feeding their families with the variety of vegetables. With this income, women often buy chickens and sell the surplus of eggs as well to generate even greater income for their families. During the program’s courtyard sessions, women learn about the need for protein in their diets, such as eggs and chicken, and how to improve their poultry rearing practices. 

As in so many parts of the world, in much of Bangladesh household duties and responsibilities, as well as childcare, are left solely to women. In Debhata, HKI group leader, Purnima Rani, discusses how water collection practices have changed for women after attending the program's training sessions. "Everyday women are coming to the local pump to get water 2 or 3 times for home consumption. Before the training, only women in the household were collecting water, but after participating in the project and receiving trainings on gender issues and meeting with the husbands and mothers-in-law, the husbands and mothers-in-law occasionally help the mothers collect water, too.”  

Rani Halder, a community health worker with HKI, makes a house call to teach nutrition and hygiene. To ensure that no mother is without the key health messages from the program, Rani meets with each beneficiary at her home to review messages and answer any questions she may have. Rani uses nutrition cards to review the vegetables that are produced in Jarna’s garden through the program’s Homestead Food Production. She highlights important nutrients in each vegetable describing how products should be combined in each meal to create a healthy and diversified diet for Jarna and her family. 

In Amtoli, Bangladesh, mothers meet in a small, simple room echoing from heavy rains on the tin roof. Many women have traveled several miles in the rain to attend one of HKI’s Courtyard Sessions on nutrition and child health through the Nobo Jibon program. Beneficiaries of the program receive lessons on topics such as hand washing and hygiene, caring for sick children, and dietary diversity. One beneficiary shares what she learned in previous Courtyard Sessions and how it has changed her family's diet. "I learned about food diversity in the Courtyard Sessions. After 6 months, I was comfortable with complementary feeding and my child was comfortable with the complementary foods.  A few weeks ago, my husband bought our children biscuits, candy and chips. I explained to him what I had learned in the Courtyard Session that these foods were not good, healthy, and nutritious foods for our children. And now he is buying eggs, mangos, bananas and vegetables for our children. My baby is happy and healthy and has a smiling face and a smiling mother.

HKI Tanzania launched a trachoma school health evaluation today with the Tanzania Institute for Education (TIE). Over the next three weeks, interview teams and supervisors from HKI, TIE, and the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology will visit 20 schools in 14 health districts to collect data on school children and teacher’s knowledge and reported behavior pertaining to trachoma prevention.  Results will be used to refine and scale-up the existing trachoma school health curriculum to help Tanzania meet their goal to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020. 

In Gulishalkhali, Bangladesh, HKI assists in Community Based Growth Monitoring Programs through the Nobo Jibon project. Today, however, Hanufa learns that her daughter, Ishrat Jahan, is below a healthy weight for a 10 month old child. Field Facilitator Ohidul Islam tracks the children’s weight and counsels mothers individually about proper nutrition and how to maintain a healthy weight for their child. He explains to Hanufa that she should begin introducing additional foods while still breastfeeding and uses a simple plastic bowl to demonstrate the appropriate amount of food for Hanufa to provide Ishrat Jahan for continued and healthy growth. 

Khadija is 5 months old, yet she weighs less than 6kg, placing her below normal growth levels for her age and at risk of health concerns related to malnutrition. While global nutrition guidelines encourage exclusive breastfeeding until babies reach 6 months, Khadija’s mother had begun introducing other foods into her baby’s diet. She said that Khadija cried often and she was afraid that she was not producing enough breast milk for Khadija. In HKI’s Nobo Jibon Project in Pataukhali,Bangladesh, Field Facilitator Seuly Mittro counsels Khadija’s mother on proper breastfeeding practices and the importance of continued exclusive breastfeeding through the first 6 months of life for a happy and healthy baby. 

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Media Contact:
Heather Mangrum
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Tel: (212) 532-0544 x808