Concern works with communities to manage acute malnutrition and supports almost 550 Community Health Workers and more than 5,400 volunteers who carry out regular childhood screening programmes. The health workers are trained to spot the early signs of malnutrition and treat coughs, malaria and diarrhoea. Mamans Lumieres, light mothers, are female volunteers and mothers themselves. They explain the benefits of breastfeeding, train mothers to ensure their family get a nutritious diet and show them how to prepare food hygienically and for optimal nutrition.
Mothers whose children are moderately acutely malnourished are enrolled in nutrition sessions where they receive advice on how to ensure their child is getting the diet it needs. They are also given support to build a kitchen garden and an opportunity to be part of a savings and loans scheme.
The approach is especially effective because it focuses on behaviour change and peer-to-peer communication aimed at stopping malnutrition and easily preventable diseases before they take hold. When cases of severe acute malnutrition are diagnosed, the mother and child are referred to a local health centre where they receive treatment. However, the limited number of clinics offering these services, and the lack of facilities for complicated cases (there are only two in the whole of Kirundo) mean that there are insufficient structures for severe acute malnutrition treatment.