An unusual type of class was held in recent weeks in DREAM centres in several African countries where the programme is operational: a proper “cookery class”.
The lessons brought to you by the photos on this page were held at the centre of Manga Chingussura, in Beira, in Mozambique, in November 2007, and they saw the participation of dozens of mothers, whose children were born on the DREAM programme of mother-to-child prevention of HIV infection.
The idea of organizing meetings to explain the basic principles of child nutrition, and to accompany mothers through the initial weaning phases, grew from the realization that many children, although they were born free of AIDS thanks to antiretroviral therapy given to pregnant women, nonetheless presented malnutrition problems. Their growth could actually be compromised because of inadequate weaning or nutrition.
So an idea emerged, to gather mothers followed up by DREAM whose children were in the weaning phase, in order to help them concretely, to give them the information making up the core of solid nutritional education.
They gathered as if at school, but theirs was an unusual teacher’s desk.
Yes, because instead of books and copybooks, there were pans, milk, sugar, different types of flour and fresh fruit! Thus, a highly useful theoretical and practical class was held, about how the women should wean their children and ensure their healthy growth.
They learned what the most adequate diet for children in their first two years of life should be. Attention was drawn to inappropriate customs related to food, with a view to changing them. Hygiene norms to follow while preparing feeding bottles and baby food were illustrated.
Further, there were practical demonstrations about the preparation and cooking of baby food. Members of staff from various centres and mothers clustered around stoves, pans and flours and cooked together. They prepared tasty baby foods: with cooked vegetables and sauces as main ingredients, with ground nuts and rice flour, with added sugar and milk, and fresh fruit, mangoes, papaya and banana.
Many of the women who turned up for the lesson in Beira came on foot, carrying their babies on their backs.
Rita Laura was one of them.
We got to know her when she was pregnant with her second child. She lost her first six days after he was born. In the meantime, she learned she was HIV-positive when she took a test at the public maternity clinic. She was desperate and longed to save her second child at least.
Rita Laura turned up happily for the “cookery class”.
She came with Florencio, who was born healthy thanks to DREAM, a sweet and lively boy, only he was a bit weakly. The baby food about to be prepared that day was just what he needed…
But for the mother, for Rita Laura, this meeting was more significant and precious than a good meal. It was another way of winning over resignation, to hope and have faith.
In fact, Rita Laura – like many other mothers – started to realize that, even if she was very poor, there was a lot she could do to help her son. She discovered that triumphing over the serious problem of malnutrition wasn&r