Dispatches from Africa: Greater Improvements Must Be Made
Last Wednesday morning our delegation traveled to the Jombo and Biliati villages in Malawi to get a closer look at key maternal and child nutrition programs aimed at meeting the critical needs of many impoverished families in that area. Frankly, I was excited about traveling to this remote location in Malawi because I had heard so much about life in African villages and wanted to see if my expectations matched reality.
Around 8 a.m. our group boarded the bus and began our journey to the Chickwawa district in the southern region of the country. The ride led us through a mountainous area. Despite the roads being well paved, the journey was filled with much anxiety. The narrow two-way road, without protective guard rails on the road’s edge, was the sole source of my anxiety -- especially because I was able to see a very steep drop on one side of the road. With a sigh of relief, and thanks to God, we eventually made it safely to our destination.
Needless to say, the abject poverty witnessed at both sites was heartbreaking and left many of us in disbelief. Many of the homes in the village were made of mud bricks that would literally melt away and collapse with too much rain. Children wore tattered clothes and didn’t have shoes. With so many children present in the middle of an apparent school day, one naturally asked, “How many of these babies actually attend primary school.” These are a few very challenging things I observed, which left an indelible mark upon my mind and heart.
Despite these realities, we also witnessed some real signs of hope. We saw first-hand the effects of the Scaling Up Nutrition campaign (SUN) on these two villages. Village leaders eagerly shared specifics about their educational programs designed by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for the purpose of promoting proper nutrition, breastfeeding, and good sanitary practices. They also showed us ingredients that they add to their meals to ensure their diets are more nutritious, and a hand-washing station they constructed to use for improved hygienic behavior. It was wonderful to see how macro-policies or ideas like SUN translate into simple, but effective methods to improve life in these villages.
As you can see, steps in the right direction have been taken, but many more are needed. We must continue our long march forward in pursuit of justice for hungry and poor people. As the associate for African American Leadership Outreach for Bread for the World, I will continue to urge leaders to unite and magnify their voices while advocating for policies that improve lives on the local level, because by doing so we are truly doing what matters.
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