Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
In Tanzania’s Great Rift Valley and islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, USAID’s Tuboreshe Chakula project — managed by Abt Associates — reached more than 28,000 people through a month-long campaign about the value of using micronutrient power to reduce malnutrition.
Many children in Tanzania suffer from various forms of malnutrition: More than half are anemic, one-third show signs of Vitamin A deficiency, and two out of five children are stunted. The problem is not necessarily a lack of food, but a lack of the right kinds of foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals, often called “hidden hunger.” Many young children eat little more than maize porridge.
The Government of Tanzania, in partnership with USAID through the Tuboreshe Chakula project, is promoting solutions to this problem, including fortifying locally available staple foods, edible oils, and cooked foods for young children — this last via Virutubishi, a micronutrient powder for children aged six months to five years.
This supplement of 10 types of vitamins and five minerals — including Vitamin A, folic acid, iodine, iron and zinc — is recommended by the World Health Organization and UNICEF and has been adopted by Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The Tuboreshe Chakula project worked with a local distributor to put Virutubishi in local shops and with the Tanzanian government to waive taxes on the micronutrient powder, meaning it can be sold at the affordable price of 100 TZS — $.06 — per sachet.
The campaign by Tuboreshe Chakula — from February 17 to March 13 — raised nationwide awareness of Virutubishi, which the project brought to Tanzania and began distributing through a public-private partnership a year ago.
“We’ve heard promising feedback so far from doctors, health workers and mothers, who say Virutubishi is improving their children’s appetites and helping them grow,” said the project’s director, Rebecca Savoie. “Yet mistrust and lack of knowledge remained about the benefits of fortifying food for young children.”
The campaign set out to change that. Each stop included three days of activities in selected towns in three target regions on the mainland, plus the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Project staff trained key Tanzanian government officials, religious leaders, and other influential people in the community in the role Virutubishi can play in reducing childhood malnutrition. Schoolchildren assembled under trees to act out the roles individual vitamins play and learn the campaign slogan, “The Good Health of Your Children is Your Responsibility,” set to music — carrying home a message for parents to purchase Virutubishi for younger siblings. Mothers visiting clinics with children in tow picked up free samples to mix into porridge handed out in plastic cups. Local shopkeepers relayed their experiences selling the powder.
On the main event day, traditional and modern singers and dancers swayed, rapped, drummed, and sang campaign messages about nutrition, while crowds clapped along. Booths served up porridge samples and information, plus sales of Virutubishi and fortified maize flour, before speeches from project and local government officials.
In the northern town of Babati, the music enticed three young mothers to the event on a dry soccer pitch. None had been giving Virutubishi to their children, but after listening to the speeches and asking questions, they were all ready to stop by the stores to purchase some on their way home.
“We got a lot of information about the importance of brain growth at this age, and how they can be less smart if they don’t get the right vitamins,” Agnes Moshi said.
“I will go buy it today,” Isabella Darema added.
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.