The Gospel proves effective in community transformation

By April 18, 2013

Mozambique (FHI) — A paper in the March 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal
Global Health: Science and Practice provided evidence that Food for the Hungry's Care Groups lower malnutrition at large scale and low cost.

Care Groups utilize the power of social capital as "Leader Mothers" teach other mothers how to improve the health of young children. The model was originally developed by World Relief and then pioneered by World Relief and Food for the Hungry (FH). Scale-up of the model has been led by FH's Chief Program Officer Tom Davis and has documented success in fighting malnutrition and child deaths in Mozambique, a country with one of the highest rates of under-age-five mortality.

The FH project highlighted by Global Health trained 4,095 Leader Mothers organized into 325 Care Groups who put in over 2.4 million hours of volunteer service over the course of five years, communicating life-saving messages. An estimated 6,848 children's lives were saved, and under-nutrition declined by 38% in target areas at a cost of only $0.55 per capita.

An earlier study of the Care Group model in Mozambique found that child deaths had decreased by 62% in target areas. In part due to FH's promotion of this effective model through, the Care Group model is now being used in 20 countries by 23 different organizations.

This strategy of behavior change communication is now being woven into all FH programs and being employed beyond health/nutrition programs to also impact agriculture, education, and disaster risk reduction.

Commenting on the power of peer-to-peer education, Davis said, "As humans, we are inherently community-oriented. Peer-to-peer education harnesses the power of community, builds stronger social capital in neighborhoods, and is an effective way to persuade parents to adopt behaviors needed to save lives. By having the mothers themselves choose a peer who will teach them, parents are more likely to adopt the life-saving practices."

Echa, a mother from Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique, has seen the power of these groups. She says that she did not think her daughter, Rehema, would make it to her third birthday. At 19 months, Rehema weighed only 20 pounds. She should have weighed 25 pounds. She was malnourished and had a weak immune system.

The Leader Mother who led the local FH Care Group counseled Echa on nutrition. "During these meetings, we discussed different ways to add vital nutrients and minerals to local dishes and recipes," said Echa. "We also were taught lessons on infant care and how to prevent and detect danger signs during childhood illnesses." Rehema steadily gained weight. By her third birthday she was no longer underweight and was thriving.

Speaking of FH's program in Mozambique, Dr. Henry Perry, Senior Associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, said, "This is one of the world's best examples so far of what can be achieved at low cost to improve the health of children in high-mortality, low-resource settings."

Although it may not seem like it's connected to the Gospel, staff would argue that it is. The truth of Christ's love serves as the inspiration for the work of Food for the Hungry. The financial support, prayers, and partnerships allow FH to address broken relationships: with God, each other, self, and creation.


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