Under a hot Zambian sun, men hear how letting women make decisions in the home improves their families' health
On UTV tonight and tomorrow Judith Hill will report on her trip with Concern to Zambia. She tells us about the amazing progress she saw there
It was a week of dusty roads and beautiful welcomes, a week when we experienced the fusion of hardship and hope that is life for many in rural Zambia, a week when we filmed, chatted, watched, laughed and danced with people in one of the country's poorest regions.
Mumbwa was our destination. I travelled there with my cameraman, Tommy Hassan, and the incredible Concern team. We were there to see the work the development agency is doing to alleviate the chronic malnutrition and widespread poverty which are life realities for most here.
What we experienced in just a few days overwhelmed and inspired us ...
So, it's Tuesday morning and we drive for hours along the red dust roads that would become so familiar to us. We draw up in a village called Muchena and even before our feet touch the ground, the drum beats have begun, music and dance surround us. I'll never tire of these African welcomes.
It's here we meet a couple called Shadreck and Mainess, who proudly show off their new garden to us. Before, corn would have been the basis of their diet, now they have multiple varieties of healthy-looking vegetables. They're a gorgeous couple to interview – excited to share how they can now afford to educate some of their children because of the income being generated from their produce. Their lives and future are healthier because of a simple vegetable plot. It's so humbling.
Wednesday brings with it a visit to a Concern-led health clinic. Around the simple building, dozens of women are gathering with their babies, as they do every week. Many have walked over 10km to be here, to check if their baby is stunted in its growth because of malnutrition. I was moved by both their vibrancy and their plight, and impressed by the clinic volunteers, who know that their work is drastically cutting the stunting rate in this region. It's clearly what drives them on.
Just a couple of hours later, we are sitting in the shade of a most beautiful mango tree. It's a moment I want to bottle. On a bench sit a row of men. They listen intently as the women of their community raise their voices and prove that they need to be included in household decision-making. It's a cultural change that Concern is affecting here. The humanitarian organisation knows that where women share in decision making within the home, families' nutrition improves. One man here tells me that in his community the women are no longer just relying on their husbands – they are standing on their own feet. And this is the message that the Concern team here are working to get across. Later that night, team representatives take it to the airwaves, when we accompany them to Blue Sky FM. Into his microphone Emmanuel preaches a message of gender equality to the men listening: "If you love your wives and if there is love in your household, then people will work together," he says. I'm struck by his drive and passion.
Thursday, and we're back on the red roads that I now adore. A few red trees crop up on our journey. I've a thing about red trees – they're amazing. So I'm happy. It's hotter today and as we draw up at another community, they're all gathered around the water pump. It is their source of life, after all, and also a social hub, it seems. I attempt to play football with one of the teenagers. I go for a shot, but instead slice the air. So I go back to doing my job and chatting to a group of women tending to their community garden. Again, their pride and thankfulness for the changes it has brought to their lives is striking.
It is here I get to hold the most vulnerable, beautiful little girl Bett, just four months old. She is clad all in pink and I see in her mum's eyes just how much of a gift her survival has been – after a premature birth.
As we finish up here, our team knows this is our last stop-off before we head back to Lusaka. And, as if sensing this, the community starts to sing and dance and pull us into their happy throng. They tell us they're celebrating the difference Concern has made in their lives. But we're celebrating too.
We've had an incredibly rich week and witnessed signs of life in a region so beset by hunger and poverty. We've travelled along roads lined with red trees in a blaze of red dust and we've seen that change – even in the face of so many almighty challenges – is possible.
- Judith Hill's reports will be broadcast tonight and tomorrow night on UTV Live at 6pm and UTV Live Tonight at 10.30pm
Even a little money can go a long way...
Concern raises the majority of its income from members of the public. This money is raised through public appeals and from regular gifts by direct debit or standing order.
Income also comes from business donations and sponsored fundraising events such as marathons, triathlons and trekking. Donations from private grant-making trusts, foundations and major donors are also a significant and growing source of income for us.
Concern is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which coordinates fundraising appeals for major disasters overseas. It receives an allocation of the total amount it raises.
Funding is also received from organisations such as the UK's Department for International Development, the Big Lottery Fund, the Asia Foundation, Scottish Executive and Guernsey Overseas Aid.
Donations go to Concern can go far. For example, £49 can provide 14-day emergency food supplies to three families, while £83 can provide clean water for a whole village.
A simple pledge to prevent deaths of millions
Hunger kills more people around the world than Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Each year, it kills 3.1 million children and leaves another 165m children stunted. It's hard to believe that in today's world, there are still millions of people who are chronically undernourished.
Many children are unable to grow, physically and mentally, leading to stunted development. Stunting has lifelong consequences and has effects beyond growth. It often leads not only to poor school performance, but low productivity and reduced income in adulthood, meaning communities are trapped in a cycle of poverty.
Concern wants to see an end to this, and there's an opportunity for you to help the charity reach more and more children.
When you donate to Hunger Stops Here your gift will be matched pound for pound by the UK government. Your donations will mean Concern can make twice the impact on stopping hunger with:
- Emergency food for severely malnourished children
- Farming and agricultural training so people have a chance to secure their future
- Education, including teaching mothers about good nutrition, so that they can make the best choices for their families