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Grandmothers fighting malnutrition, one child at a time

A boy stands on a scale so his weight can be calculated.

A young boy in Benin, Africa is weighed by the grandmothers to determine the status of his health.

Mother knows best, right? Well if that’s the case, it’s safe to call grandmothers the wisest members of the family. In Benin, Africa, that’s definitely the case.

“It’s often the grandmother that passes on the traditions, knowledge and values to children,” explained Paul Sabi Boum, a Plan staff member from Benin. “She is a respected member of the household and the community, and she is uniquely placed to influence others because of her experience.”

Always respect your grandmother

In Benin, grandmothers are taking big strides to keep their grandchildren healthy. 1 in every 3 children under the age of 5 suffers from chronic malnutrition in Benin. It’s a big problem, and someone has to step up to the plate.

To meet the challenge, grandmothers from 160 different communities across Benin have signed up to tackle malnutrition. So far, more than 12,000 grandmothers have enrolled in a Plan-supported project to curb malnutrition rates.

These grandmas receive training on how to prevent malnutrition – like what to feed undernourished children and how to recognize early signs of malnutrition. They also learn how to cook nutritious meals using locally available produce. Best of all, they share their knowledge with their families and communities, passing down recipes and giving sound advice.

The proof is in the porridge
A woman in Benin sits with a little boy on her lap while she feeds him a bowl of nutritious food.

Grandmothers in Benin, Africa, like Philomena, cook nutritious meals for children suffering from malnutrition in their communities.

“Since the project began in my village, we have seen a real improvement,” explains Philomena, a mother of 5 and grandmother to a growing brood. “The number of children who suffered from malnutrition has gone down.”

It’s true! Since the start of the project, the health of 700 children has dramatically improved. Plan aims to engage an additional 12,000 grandmothers in communities across Benin. So far, 19,000 new moms have received training, advice and support from these hard working grannies.

“We hold cooking sessions for mothers to show them how to prepare nutritious meals,” said Philomena. “The recipes we suggest to mothers are simple, but the porridge made with Moringa leaves and corn flour is a favourite of children.”

Moringa trees grow in abundance across Benin. Moringa leaves are rich in nutrients, carrying 4-times the amount of calcium found in milk, and packed with vitamin A, iron and protein.

A stable diet keeps malnutrition at bay

Grandmothers will feed children suffering from malnutrition for 12 days. By that time, they’ve generally made progress and they are ready to go back to their mothers. But it doesn’t stop there.

“We often do door-to-door surprise visits as a follow-up to prevent children from falling back into a situation of malnutrition,” said Philomena. “We also make small savings in case our local stocks are depleted so we can continue to provide nutritious meals to young children.”

Although Philomena and other grandmothers are not paid to do what they do, they pride themselves in taking care of their community.