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Dispatches from Africa: Card Carrying Moms
When I think of the valuable "cards" in my wallet, images of my bank or credit card come to mind. For many Zambian mothers there's another card that carries weight, and it has nothing to do with money or credit. It's called a "Road to Health Card."
The "Road to Health Card" is similar to a U.S. child's immunization card, but contains more detailed information about the child's growth from birth to age 5. Without the card mothers have to rely on their memories and deliver the information verbally, which can be unreliable.
The card is rather bulky and awkward, stretching to about 8 X 12 when opened and printed on very heavy card stock. Pink cards are assigned to girls and boys get blue ones. The design is very colorful and bright. At first glance it reminds you of something that was designed for a child, but the information it holds is anything but child's play.
Susan Strasser from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation told us about the cards when she spoke with our group on our first night in Zambia. "Mothers will save them for years and they are often tattered and torn," she said. Susan also shared information about the country's high rate of stunting. Forty-five percent of Zambian children under 5are stunted, which means they are too short for their height and weight, and 21 percent are severely stunted.
Seeking medical care for a malnourished or sick child can be an arduous journey for a mother who may have to travel for many miles and days. She knows the information on that card could mean the difference between life or death for her child. That is why many Zambian moms don't leave home without it.
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