Originally published on November 12, 2014.
The devastating toll of the AIDS epidemic in Malawi has left behind approximately 560,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), according to a 2007 estimate. Many of these children are cared for through local community-based childcare centers (CBCCs), which provide the most vulnerable children in their communities with basic schooling and healthcare, psychosocial support, and a meal of the local porridge called likuni phala
. For many children, the porridge is their only daily meal and, while it temporarily fills their bellies, it offers limited nutritional value by itself. But, since 2009, support from USAID has enabled the Land O’Lakes Malawi Dairy Development Alliance (MDDA) to begin making a substantive difference. Working with milk bulking group members who are benefiting from that program, MDDA is now facilitating donations of milk to these CBCCs. With milk added to the children’s porridge, they are able to access many of the vital nutrients needed for overall nutritional health.
"The orphans need a lot of support, and giving them milk is the one thing we can do. It feels good."
Since May 2009, the 261-member Land O’Lakes Milk Bulking Group in Chitsanzo has provided regular milk donations to the local CBCC. Each day, the milk bulking group donates six liters of milk that is now incorporated into the children’s daily porridge. According to CBCC chairman Sybwick Themuka, the milk has had a significant impact in making the porridge more palatable and nutritious. “Since introducing the milk to the porridge, the children even enjoy it without sugar now. Nutritionally there is also a change. We weigh the children. If a child is weighing-in low, we deliver milk at home, as well.” The milk supplement has also been particularly beneficial for children living with HIV. One HIV-positive nine-year-old girl says she feels stronger from being able to drink milk while on antiretroviral therapy. Rose Wachepa, a caregiver for an HIV-positive nine-year-old boy also found that the milk enhanced his strength.
Land O’ Lakes also provides training on nutrition, milk handling and hygiene to CBCC staff members. According to Themuka, “When it comes to preparation of food, the life of a person needs to be [considered]. Dairy hygiene trainings are important, because they train staff how to take care of the OVC and how to care for themselves.”
The milk bulking group members have also benefitted from the relationship they’ve built with the CBCCs. “The orphans need a lot of support, and giving them milk is the one thing we can do. It feels good,” says Felias Tifere, a farmer who contributes about 20 liters of milk each day to the milk bulking group.