October 11, 2019
In a small fishing village nestled near a lagoon in Sri Lanka lives Punithavathy, a mother of three. Punithavathy had two teenage daughters before giving birth to Sasvin, who weighed less than five pounds when he was born. Many young children in Mahiloor Munai suffered from malnutrition. At that time, Punithavathy did not know how to help Sasvin gain weight.
With poor nutrition and low food intake, Sasvin was frequently sick. He had fevers and would often break out with severe skin rashes. By the time he was three years old, Sasvin was still underweight. According to recent data, 20.5% of children in Sri Lanka are underweight. Malnutrition impacts a child’s development and hinders their ability to thrive in life.
In 2018, CERI started the Nutrition for Child Development program in Mahiloor Munai, providing educational sessions, cooking classes and nutrition packs for underweight children in the village.
Punithavathy immediately joined the program and seized every opportunity to participate. She learned about the meals Sasvin needed and how to prepare nutritious food for the entire family. She also learned how to encourage Sasvin to eat. In addition to practical information, Punithavathy learned about nutrition, local ingredient options and how to grow a sustainable garden.
Empowered by this knowledge, Punithavathy started a garden in her front yard and began planting vegetables. Slowly, her cooking habits changed and the quality of the food she prepared for her family improved. Eventually, Sasvin started eating new foods and his weight steadily increased.
Punithavathy didn’t stop with food. She began changing her family’s hygiene habits, making cleanliness a priority. According to WHO, good hygiene and proper sanitation are directly linked to improved health outcomes in children and communities including better nutrition, increased school attendance and lower rates of diseases.
Nutritious food and good hygiene helped improve Sasvin’s health. Eventually, Sasvin was able to attend preschool and now has the ability to reach his full potential.
This World Food Day, we are supporting mothers like Punithavathy so they can do what they want most; care for their families the best way.