Mozambique already has one of the highest rates of childhood malnutrition in the world, but the stakes are even higher in Tete Province. Food insecurity and poor hygiene practices are common, and Tete was also ravaged by severe cyclones in 2019, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of crops. Yet amid these circumstances, there is lifesaving progress happening in Tete’s villages.
With the support of partner Red Nose Day, Helen Keller Intl is sharing vital tools and practices that have been proven to create lasting change. Local health workers collaborate with “model mother” volunteers, who master new skills to become effective change agents in their own communities.
Volunteer “model mothers” share best practices for health in their communities
Sipiwe Edissoni is one of these model mothers. She received initial training from community health workers, and she now visits houses in her village, connecting with women in the group and observing each family’s behaviors.
During a recent lunchtime visit to Juditi Petrosse’s home, model mother Sipiwe watched as Juditi and her children quickly washed their hands before eating a meal of corn maize and sauteed wild greens. The entire family used their hands to eat from a shared plate. Food and cooking pots were stored on the floor and the water used to wash the dishes was not treated. The family told Sipiwe that they consumed just two meals a day, with very little protein.
Improving health, hygiene, and nutrition through peer-to-peer conversations
Model mothers like Sipiwe observe families, discuss challenges, and create solutions for nutrition and health needs. Sipiwe’s training with community health workers empowered her to use communication skills to support Juditi. Together, they discussed the risks of the entire family washing in the same basin, eating from the same plate, and consuming untreated water. Sipiwe shared possible solutions, including methods for treating water, eating on separate plates, and consuming three meals a day. Evidence shows that interpersonal counseling sessions like this one can motivate change and greatly improve health practices in a community.
I’m eager to continue in this group and keep learning.”Juditi Petrosse
Following Sipiwe’s visit, Juditi shared her thoughts on the experience, as well as her interest in becoming a model mother herself. “Today, in just one visit, Mrs. Sipiwe showed me lots of things I did not know I was doing wrong. I did not know that being part of the group I would learn so much good stuff like that…I´m eager to continue in this group and keep learning.”
Support for critical interventions creates a healthier future for Mozambique families
Programs like the model mother trainings reach more than 23,600 women – particularly pregnant and lactating mothers – who can provide critical interventions that impact their infants. By promoting nutrition-related behavior change, model mothers are laying a foundation for healthy development, and creating a healthier future for children in Tete Province.