Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty.


"Massungakate: community volunteers helping young Mozambicans access improved nutrition"

By Aderito Bie, Communications Officer, CARE Mozambique 

“Being a massungakate is especially important right now when so many of our children here are eating only once a day. Before the drought, they were eating three times a day.”

When Cyclone Dineo cut a swathe through the Mozambican province of Inhambane in February, it wreaked havoc on communities already struggling with hunger. The region is no stranger to weather extremes. Southern Africa has been experiencing its worst drought in 35 years. In Mozambique alone, the combined effects of drought and El Niño have left more than 2 million people in need of food assistance.

Cyclone Dineo compounded these problems, affecting more than 500,000 people in the province. But by far the storm’s most devastating consequence was the destruction of more than 29,000 hectares of maize, cassava, beans, and peanuts, the first harvest for two years. More than 135,000 fruit trees – a key source of nutrition and income – were also destroyed.

Enter the massungakates. Massungakate means “one who is respected” in Xitswa, the local language in this part of Mozambique, and traditionally refers to women who volunteer their time to help out the community. Even before Cyclone Dineo, CARE has been working with massungakates in the districts of Funhalouro and Homoine, training them in the preparation of nutritionally enriched porridge for local children. Forty-three per cent of Mozambican children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.

Twice a week, CARE conducts training sessions over large pots of porridge cooking on open fires in different villages across Funhalouro and Homoine.

The ingredients and the know-how are supplied by CARE, the pots and the massungakates come from the communities. The porridge is based on locally grown products including the leaves of the moringa tree (a drought resistant tree with iron rich leaves), and enriched with coconut milk, peanuts, and sugar. In addition to the preparation of nutrition enriched food, CARE is working with the massungakates, training them on testing for malnutrition in children under the age of five in their communities.

The women are also trained on messaging about health, hygiene, children's well-being and good food practices. For Olga Mbatina, from Funhalouro district, being a massungakate is very important. “I help the community at any time but it’s especially important right now when so many of our children here are eating only once a day. Before the drought, they were eating three times a day,” she says.

So far, CARE’s work with the massungakate has assisted almost 5,000 children in Inhambane province, and more than 200 cases of severe malnutrition have been referred to local hospitals.



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