A Life-saving Conversation: Beyenech’s story

Monday 8 July 2019

The remnants of poverty are visible on Beyenech’s face, a mother to two-year old Selam who lives in Tahtay Koraro Woreda, western Tigray. Despite years of hardship, Beyenech exudes great hopefulness as she tells her story. “I am a single mother,” she begins, “Selam is my only child. I work at the village mill to support her.”

Around the time Selam turned one, she repeatedly fell ill, refusing to eat or drink what her mother offered. Beyenech tried to remedy her illness, though to no avail, as Selam’s condition only worsened. She took her to a nearby health center where she was diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition and referred to Shire Hospital for medical care. Selam’s condition improved little, nonetheless, as she didn’t take a liking to the Plumpy Nut supplements she was given and would often regurgitate it or refuse to take it altogether. “I was beginning to get very worried,” continues Beyenech, “I thought I was losing my daughter.”

Severe Acute Malnutrition is defined by very low weight for height and is typically manifested through significant weight loss. Unlike the long-lasting effects of chronic malnutrition, the effects of acute malnutrition can be fatal, accounting for 30% to 50% of mortalities among under-five children globally (WHO, 2019).

In July of 2018, a month following the onset of Selam’s illness, Beyenech was selected by USAID’s Growth through Nutrition Activity which was running behavioral change sessions among rural communities to improve their household nutritional practices. The project also provided Beyenech three sheep, six chickens, and seeds and seedlings of vegetables and fruits. She was trained on how to rear sheep and chickens and on how to grow a homestead garden. It wasn’t long before Beyenech had carrots, sweet potato, Swiss chard, kale, and eggs readily available in her back-yard.

At the project’s Enhanced Community Conversation sessions, Beyenech was quickly learning about complimentary feeding and eager to apply what she was learning at home. She began making Selam enriched porridges using kale, eggs, oil, and a mixture of grains which Selam took a liking to. Slowly but surely, Selam’s weight began to normalize, leading to her full recovery in January 2019.

Selam has grown to be a strong, healthy two-year-old toddler. Beyenech takes pride in that, and has high hopes of seeing her daughter grow up to be a brilliant young girl.

USAID’s Growth through Nutrition Activity supplements nutrition sensitive agriculture inputs with Enhanced Community Conversations where communities learn about maternal and young child feeding, healthcare, hygiene, and numerous other topics to ensure households have the knowledge, skill, and desire to improve the nutritional status of their families. To date, more than 19,500 households were supported through nutritional inputs and nearly 25,000 beneficiaries through Enhanced Community Conversations in four agrarian regions of the country.