In the Shadow of the Hunger Season

Mabinty Kargbo is worried about how she will feed her family over the next three months. She gave birth to twin girls 6 months ago, joining her 4 year old daughter and 10 year old son. Life has never been easy in the community of Mile 91 where she lives, a town so lacking in infrastructure and defining features that it has only been named in terms of its distance from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. For Mabinty, life got even harder this year when her husband suddenly left, leaving her alone with four children.

The rainy season is fast approaching and the daily challenge of providing enough nutritious food for Mabinty’s family becomes harder every day. From June until August, the rains will bombard Sierra Leone. It is not unusual for storms to last for a whole week, without interruption. These conditions make it difficult to grow food, while the beaten mud paths that pass for roads throughout the rest of the year turn to impassable obstacles. As the amount of available food decreases and the time and expense needed to move food around the country increases, it is the most vulnerable, like Mabinty and her family, who are most at risk of going hungry.

Despite the challenges ahead, Mabinty and her family will not face the hunger season alone this year. International Medical Corps, in partnership with ACDI VOCA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are providing a range of support for communities around Mile 91 and across four districts in Sierra Leone that will prevent malnutrition among children like Mabinty’s.

Mabinty is already receiving food that ensures the healthy growth of her babies in the crucial first years of their lives, a time when malnutrition can cripple their development for a lifetime. As the rainy season gets underway, pregnant and lactating women like Mabinty will begin to receive a larger ration of food to support their whole families through the hardest time of the year.

Just as important to the health of this community is the support that women in Mile 91 provide themselves. Once a month, Mabinty gets a visit from Elizabeth, an International Medical Corps-trained Lead Mother. Elizabeth offers advice on how to prepare nutritious food from whatever supplies are available as well as vital health messages on hygiene, exclusive breast-feeding and reproductive health. International Medical Corps provides the training and materials to women like Elizabeth, equipping her with the skills to support numerous women in her local community.

Working together, International Medical Corps and its partners, community leaders and international donors like USAID, are making sure that Mabinty and her young family have the best possible chance of surviving the hunger season and going on to flourish in the future. When asked what she hoped for her daughters, Mabinty said that they will grow up to be doctors.

There is enough food for everyone in Sierra Leone, whatever the challenges of the rainy season. With the right support and collaboration, there is no reason why Mabinty’s ambitions for her daughters cannot be realized.

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