Family Food Rations Increase HIV Patient’s Independence and Self-Esteem
Juliet was introduced to WFP’s Health & Nutrition Programme five months ago, when her doctor noticed she continued to lose weight. At that time, Juliet weighed a mere 40kg. After receiving monthly nutritional supplements and food rations for her household, Juliet has gained 5kg.
In Harare and Bulawayo, WFP uses electronic vouchers to distribute food rations to beneficiaries of the Health & Nutrition Programme. Each month, a new voucher reference number is linked electronically to a person’s national ID number, which entitles them to collect food rations from a nearby shop.
Juliet chooses to shop at a supermarket in Kuwadzana, a low-income suburb near her home. Using her voucher, she is able to collect mealie meal (maize), beans and vegetable oil to share with her family. At the clinic, Juliet also collected 10kg of Super Cereal, a fortified nutritional supplement that WFP gives individual patients to support their treatment and nutritional rehabilitation.
Once the voucher and national ID numbers are certified using WFP’s internet-based system, the shop keeper receives instant, electronic payment for the food items.
Between 2004 – 2007, Juliet worked as a maid in Harare. However, after she tested HIV positive, she fell ill and was unable to continue her work. “I now understand the importance of food and good nutrition for people living with HIV,” she says. “My medication is strong and I need to have food in my stomach when I take the tablets.”
Juliet is pleased to have put on 5kg since joining the WFP programme. “When I was underweight and saw a car passing by, I was worried it would blow me away,” she says. Juliet has recently resumed doing her own laundry and says she is better able to get around and do her household chores since receiving WFP’s assistance.
By giving beneficiaries a $5 ‘cash-back’ in addition to their monthly food ration, WFP aims to empower beneficiaries by giving them more choice. Juliet says she buys salt, sugar and soap with her cash allocation.
When Juliet Muchenga's son (and household breadwinner) passed away in 2011, well-wishers from her local church started donating food to her family. While this did not include any nutritional supplements, vital for her antiretroviral therapy treatment, she was grateful to at least be able to provide her five children and grandchildren with one meal per day.
After two months, the church donations ceased and Juliet had no choice but to beg community members for food. “My situation was well known and I could see people trying to avoid me in the streets because they knew I was begging for food,” she says. “I lost respect for myself.”
“Sometimes they would give me some food, but it was often vegetables when I really needed mealie meal (maize),” she says. “Now that I am on the programme, I receive the mealie meal as well as money to buy other things.” Juliet choses to spend her $5 ‘cash-back’ on salt, sugar and soap for her family.
After five months on WFP’s Health & Nutrition Programme receiving monthly nutritional supplements and food rations for her household, Juliet’s weight and health BMI have improved, as well as her self-respect and sense of independence.