25-year-old Victoria Rebezara, from the village of Ampasimbola in eastern Madagascar, is a happy mother of a 7-month-old baby boy, Keychann.
Keychann is growing well and is totally healthy. Victoria has breastfed him since birth – advice given by her local Community Health Volunteer (CHV).
"I have exclusively breastfed my little boy from birth until he was six months old, as the CHV advised. He has not been severely ill so far, and he has the appropriate weight for his body size and age. Breastfeeding hasn’t been difficult and I’ve had a good supply of milk. I breastfeed at least ten times in the morning and on-demand at night," she says.
Victoria proudly holds out a booklet where her baby’s health records were entered, "this child health card is very useful because it has helped me monitor my child's health status,” she explains. “Not only does it show the treatments provided when the baby was sick, but it also gives tips and best practices about how to raise the child well and keep him healthy".
Last year in October, Victoria received a ‘Model Household’ award in the pregnant woman category for successfully applying all of the 7 Key Practices for Pregnancy, under the CHV’s guidance.
USAID’s Mahefa Miaraka program has helped develop the 7 Key Practices for Pregnancy. They guide expectant moms along a path to follow to ensure a smooth delivery. According to these key practices, a pregnant woman should (i) receive at least four regular health checkups before delivery, (ii) always sleep under a treated mosquito bed net, (iii) receive the tetanus vaccine, and learn to spot the signs that a pregnancy may be in trouble (severe headache, bleeding, swollen feet, etc.) and COVID-19 symptoms, (iv) diversify her diet, (v) go immediately to the health center if she has any concerns or symptoms of poor health, (vi) take her daily dose of iron folic acid, and (vii) give birth under the supervision of health care workers at a health facility.
Because of her positive experiences with the community health system, Victoria is encouraging others to access the health system for their pregnancies and to follow the guidance of the community health volunteers. When she was presented with her Model Household award she said, "I am honored to receive this award. I have been successful in promoting household health, and I readily shared my experiences with other mothers so they can take care of their family's health as well."
The message she shares with other mothers is clear. “Breastfeed your children until they are at least six months old, because the nutritional value of maternal milk is more than enough to ensure their healthy growth and prevent illnesses."