A visit to a local ward in Matam, where undernutrition is treated

Carluccio's Chairman's Senegal Field Diary (Part 3/3)

Simon Kossoff’s Senegal field diary: Day 3 - Simon, Susie and Daniel Cook For The "Mamans Lumiere"

By Action Against Hunger

May 25 2016

The Carluccio’s team cook for the "Mamans Lumieres"

Simon's final day in Senegal, including the preparation of a very special dish...

Twenty four hours travelling begins with the bumpy nine hour drive across Senegal to Dakar, next an overnight flight to Paris and finally onward to London. It’s hard work in the heat but to be honest three days in Matam in the projects is enough and we are glad to be on our way.

Yesterday we drove a short distance out of Matam to a Health Post, the objective to start to understand the malnutrition treatment pyramid that begins in the community and ends, sometimes sadly, in the hospital in Matam. The nurse at the Health Post monitors and treats 1,600 under five year olds from the villages in the area. Some are treated at home, some in the Health Post and some, only a few at this time of year, the complicated cases, are referred to the hospital.

The highlight of today is a community awareness session, part of our project, dealing with the key issues in the prevention of acute malnutrition. Good hygiene practices, good food practices and occupational therapy for the listless and malnourished children. The session is run by the "Mamans Lumieres", a cross between a community leader and trainer who, by example, defines the best path for mothers struggling with sick children.

We have discussed a translation for Mamans Lumieres. The French Action Against Hunger workers say “mother of lights” but it doesn't feel right. We have tried “mother pathfinders” and “enlightened mothers” but in the end there really isn't a translation that carries the emotion of it. Mamans Lumieres will do.

Next the challenge….

Making A Home Favourite Far From Home

While the Mamans Lumieres cook for the children we cook for them. The idea to mark raising £1.5m (50p for each Penne Giardiniera we sell) by cooking the dish in the field with ingredients sourced in Senegal. Some things we had to find in Dakar but in the market in Matam we bought eggs, garlic, peanut oil and just the most fiery local chilli.

We wanted to use local cassava leaves instead of spinach so we bought them in the market but the Mamans explained that they can be poisonous if not handled correctly so, having exposed our ignorance, we revert to the spinach bought two days before in Dakar market.

The Carluccio's team preparing their signature dish. Credit: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger

The Mamans cooked over a fire under the canopy of one clay brick building while we set up our make shift kitchen under the canopy of the Health Post. Our handleless leaky pans, broken knives and single portable gas ring better equipment than theirs. The day before I had called Antonio Carluccio from the heat of the garden visit for advice on my rather mixed up ingredients only to be given a lecture I have heard many times before about making perfect spinach balls!

The pictures tell the story but it is fair to say that 24 hours from home in forty degree heat with strange ingredients and awful equipment we produced an epic Penne Giardiniera.

The Penne Giardianiera Carluccio's prepared for the Mamans Lumieres in Matam. Credit: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger

Our £1,500,000 dish.

In some ways the last visits of the trip were the most difficult. First the local regional hospital in Matam to see the acute ward where the worst cases of malnutrition are treated. The contrast between a hospital we would recognise and this broken building, grubby and lacking the most basic equipment is upsetting but not as sad as the two tiny children and their overwhelmed mothers in the acute ward. The very hard end of the work Action Against Hunger do here.

Finally, Fabrice, our host, Daniel and our photographer Richard headed off to see the reality of village life outside the town. Though there is a deep and rich culture, intense family and community values and often considerable joy the reality of poverty for the people in the hamlets around Matam brings home why we do the fund raising in the first place.

It has been an incredible trip. There is an intriguing connection between a company that makes its living selling food to affluent westerners and an organisation dedicated to ending child hunger in Africa and throughout the world. We have been lucky enough to see, feel and hopefully strengthen that connection at first hand.

Simon Kossoff
April 2016

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All Photos: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger