|The family-oriented nutrition club in Hat 2 Village is held twice a month, and the number of attendees is steadily growing. — VNS Photo Bach Lien
by Bach Lien
YEN BAI (VNS) — Dong Thi Quyen hops on her motorbike at 8am and heads to the home of another woman in Tram Tau District.
When she arrives at the modest nha san (stilt house), a dozen other ethnically-Thai women are waiting for her to begin the cooking lesson. They have prepared rice, meat and onion to learn how to make chao (porridge) with meat for their young children at home.
The family-oriented nutrition club in Hat 2 village is held twice a month, and the number of attendees is steadily growing. The group of mothers also have learned about child care, breast feeding and cooking skills during bi-monthly meetings.
"Here I can learn how to cook chao with meat, fish, crab, eel. This is very important for me," said Lo Thi Son, a 20-year-old mother of a 2-year-old son.
"I didn't know how to cook for my son before joining the club," she said. "I fed my son porridge with salt. I didn't know how to cook meat and fish and never cooked vegetables for my son."
Hoang Thi Luan, another young mother, said she learned how to make a balanced meal with ample vitamins and protein.
"I know now that the mother can cook crabs and eel if she catches them," she said. "I also know that eggs, pork or beef are healthy for my child."
Luan said she used to chew the food first to soften it before feeding it to her baby – a habit she learned from her mother and grandmother. But she said she now understands it is not a hygienic way to feed her child.
Since joining the club, many mothers have planted a vegetable garden and begun raising chickens in order to provide more nutritional meals.
Quyen used to be a member of the club years ago, but she now receives an allocation of VND40,000 (US$2) per day to teach the classes. She visits a household in the village every month to check up on the health of the child, and she even spends her own money buying them presents.
"My parents-in-law didn't want me to spend time taking part in the club, but I convinced them," she said. "I think that this work is not only useful for me, but also for other women. I want to transfer the knowledge that I gained to help other people."
How it all began
The nutrition club started up in 2012 with the help of World Vision, a humanitarian organisation that helps families and communities reach their full potential by tackling the roots of poverty and injustice.
World Vision started forming nutrition clubs to promote sustainability and nutritional activities. To date, 25 clubs have operated in 34 villages of six communes of the Tram Tau District of Yen Bai Province.
More than 500 mothers of Mong and Thai ethnicity have participated in the club, which in turn benefits 600 children up to age five.
In addition to teaching cooking skills and nutrition, a club representative also tracks the weight of the children on a monthly basis. If the children lose weight, the mothers are given advice to adjust their nutritional regimens.
"When my son was a one-year-old child, he suffered from malnutrition. He only weighed 5 kg," Luan said. "Three years since I took part in the club, my child is four years old now, and he weighs 16 kg. It's so fantastic. I am very happy."
More than 56.3 per cent of the population in Tram Tau District struggled with poverty last year, according to official statistics from the People's Committee. One third of local children under five suffered from malnutrition, while the rate was higher in some remote communities.
Nguyen Hai Dang, World Vision's regional programme development chief of Tram Tau District, said malnutrition rates were high because the local people did not have an adequate understanding of nutrition, disease prevention and other child care issues.
Over the last few years, many Mong children have begun to bring their lunches to class, but they typically ate bamboo shoots with red chili and cabbage. Some children's lips were numb because they ate the meal every day for a week.
However, the malnutrition rate in underweight among children under five in Tram Tau District has fallen from 34.8 per cent to 30.7 per cent from August 2014 to June 2015, according to a survey conducted by World Vision. The result was also confirmed by the district's People's Committee. The reduction rate was more pronounced in villages that had nutrition clubs.
Lo Van Pang, deputy chairman of People's Committee of Hat Luu commune, said the reduction was attributed to a number of nutritional activities that were implemented in local communities. — VNS