The 'Porridge Mums' cook together in Nigeria.

Cooking together to fight malnutrition

How an initiative in Nigeria is saving the lives of children in conflict zones. 

By Action Against Hunger

Dec 20 2018

Last year, we introduced you to our Porridge Mums. A group of mothers who are working together to create better health and nutrition for their children in conflict-torn northeast Nigeria. With the conflict continuing, we take a second look at how this initiative is saving the lives of children living in conflict.

ABOUT THE INITIATIVE

The Porridge Mum approach employed by Action Against Hunger in northeast Nigeria provides a platform for women to come together, learn and discuss issues related to improved child caring and feeding practices.

Porridge Mum groups ensure that children under five and pregnant and lactating women receive one supplementary nutritious meal per day. The groups also provide a strong foundation for promoting best infant and young child feeding practices, offering breastfeeding support, creating “safe spaces” for sharing and discussion among women, and screening regularly for undernutrition in children under five.

HOW THE INITIATIVE HELPS WOMEN LIKE KOLOM

Kolom Abass is a 25-year-old mother of three. After fleeing violence in their hometown three years ago, Kolom and her family have been living in an informal refugee camp called Hursobeshar Camp, near the town of Maiduguri. 

“We lived two years under the insurgents’ rules” explains Kolom. “As a woman I was not allowed to go outside. Because of the militants who surrounded our community, we lacked food. If we were lucky enough, we cooked one meal a day.” Kolom recalls her flight quite vividly. “My husband was able to flee one month before me. He came here to seek accommodation then he came back to get us but we could not move because of the groups’ presence.”

At one point, airstrikes from the military started and Kolom took advantage of the chaos to escape with her children. “We walked into the bush for four days. At our arrival in Maiduguri, myself and my children were exhausted from tiredness and hunger.”

Identified as a vulnerable person, Kolom joined Porridge Mums about one year ago and today she is the treasurer of her group. As a group, they receive a monthly amount from Action Against Hunger of 25,000 naira (around £50) in which to bulk-buy ingredients and essential non-food items such as firewood. On her latest shopping trip, Kolom purchases 49 yams, beans, dried fishes, palm oil, tinned tomatoes and curry powder. These ingredients will be used to cook one Yam porridge meal per day for one week for children under 5 and pregnant and lactating women. 

THE BENEFITS OF PORRIDGE MUMS

Action Against Hunger’s manager for food security and livelihoods in Borno state, Titus, explains the benefits that we are seeing thanks to the Porridge Mums: “We do a monthly monitoring on malnutrition of mums and children that eat from this meal on a weekly basis. Some of the malnourished children whom we screened since the beginning are already recovering.”

For Kolom, as well as providing a much needed daily nutritious meal, Porridge Mums is also a way to cope with the harsh conditions of living. “It is better for me to go to the kitchen with the Porridge Mums, if I stay at home I think only about our situation and my sickness. I want my children to go to school. It is complicated to think about the future. There is no security in my hometown.”

Taken as a whole, the Porridge Mum approach provides an example of a creative solution to overcome the complex challenges associated with providing assistance to families affected by conflict.  

HOW YOU CAN HELP THIS WINTER

By donating to our children in conflict appeal, you can help support mums like Kolom, who are trying to care for their children despite conflict and uncertainty.

Action Against Hunger works in almost 50 countries around the world, and we will continue to do so until we beat hunger.

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Photo Credits: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger