I'd known there was a hunger crisis in Mozambique, but what really got to me was hearing that HIV positive mothers were faced with choosing between letting their children starve or nursing their children past the recommended time despite the risk of passing on HIV.
Prior to founding Kurandza, which means “to love” in the local Changana language, I lived in Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. While there, I worked at a rural hospital counseling mothers on the prevention of HIV transmission to their babies, and had successfully prevented the transmission to hundreds of children.
At first, I thought that maybe the mothers who continued to nurse despite the risk, where doing this because they forgot their training. Or I thought perhaps I hadn't taught them very well after all.
But when I counseled one of these mothers over the phone last month from my home, now living thousands of miles away in California, I realized she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it hurt her to do so. She knew that by continuing to nurse her child past the recommended time, she was putting her baby at risk to contract HIV. She knew that when a child contracts the HIV virus, it often leads to mortality.
This mother has already successfully raised five HIV-free children because she followed the prevention techniques. But this time is different. This time there isn’t any food for her to feed her child because of the two-year drought. There isn't any water to grow crops on her farm to produce the food that her child desperately needs to survive. Water is a life source and they are without. Like all the women in her community, she knows that if she stops nursing, her baby will most likely die of malnutrition. So she is making the best choice for her baby by nursing despite the possible outcome.
The women facing this impossible choice is what made me pause and reassess the work I was already doing in Mozambique through Kurandza. Even though we’re in the middle of creating new educational and entrepreneurial programs for the women there, we're refocusing our energy to something more urgent this month because I know in my heart that we need to address the hunger crisis now.
Our goal is to raise $250,000 in the month of June to provide immediate food and baby formula, plus sustainable water and agriculture projects to this community. It’s important to supplement humanitarian assistance with long-term solutions such as building multifunctional water wells so that the community will be able to continue farming and growing their own crops even if the drought continues.
Please help us help these mothers in Mozambique by contributing HERE