SWAZILAND – Khumbu Shiba,* 60, has struggled with HIV for many years with little assistance from others.
In 2004, her husband died after having been sick for a long time. Although she did not know at the time that her husband had been HIV-positive, Mrs. Shiba herself was diagnosed with the virus in 2009.
“I was then given anti-retroviral drugs, which helped me a lot. But I had lost a lot of weight and remained thin, only 40 kg, despite taking the pills,” she explained.
Khumbu heads a household with five grown children, most of whom are unemployed, and two infant grandchildren, and she often struggled to put food on the table. “I am a retired primary school teacher, so I only rely on my pension to survive,” she said.
In August 2011, Khumbu was found to be malnourished and began receiving a monthly ration of Super Cereal, a nutrient-rich, blended food eaten as porridge, as part of the Government of Swaziland’s Food by Prescription programme, which is supported by WFP. She also received a food basket with maize, beans and oil to take home, enough to feed a family of six people for a month.
“Before I received the food, I had no desire for food, I had to force myself to eat,” she said. “The food brought back my appetite and helped me gain weight. I ate a lot, especially the sidonono (a Swazi word used to refer to Super Cereal). That one is very good.”
Participants in the programme also receive nutrition education and counseling, including tips on how to prepare food while retaining its nutritious content. They are enrolled in the programme for about six months, enough time to regain their health and nutrition status.
After concluding the programme in February 2012, Mrs. Shiba was at first admittedly upset that she wouldn’t get any more food. “But when they explained that other people who are malnourished also needed the food, I understood. After all, I am strong enough to fend for myself now,” she said.
Khumbu recently started a small goat and pig-farming business to earn an income for her family. She plans to buy a tractor to help her grow maize on her half-acre farm; she can also rent out the tractor to neighbours for extra income.
“The food is really a good thing to have. In fact, the programme is raising people up by giving them hope for a brighter future once they have recovered their strength,” Khumbu said.
*Name changed for privacy.