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Moringa Leaves Saving Lives in DRC

KINSHASA, Jun 14 2012 (IPS) - Seated under a tree, biologist Zozo Bazomba welcomes a steady stream of visitors to the Action Nature et Médecine centre in Bumbu commune in the DRC. Suffering from a range of ailments, they have come from across Kinshasa, the capital, in search of sachets of powdered moringa leaves.

Action Nature et Médecine (ANAMED) is a non-governmental organisation leading an effort to promote the health benefits of the leaves and seeds of the Moringa olifeira tree in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The NGO has a ten-hectare plantation of the trees at Mingadi, in the western province of Bas-Congo.

Jean-Baulin Mbo, 68, who suffered a stroke, said that regular consumption of moringa leaves is what is keeping him alive. “I’ve made a habit of eating moringa since I discovered this plant. I often have the powder with tea, in porridge, in milk or in a soft drink,” he told IPS. Others who have come looking for moringa are suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or poor nutrition.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, at the Libondi Health Centre’s nutrition unit, Eric Kiambi marveled at the results he’s seeing using moringa with malnourished children. “Before, we struggled with having too many children to care for while waiting for soy milk from our (donor) partners. But now, with moringa, the centre shelters around 20 malnourished kids,” the nutritionist told IPS.

“Moringa’s become a staple in a fair number of households,” said another worker at the centre, Vénantie Wabo. “It’s an alternative in cases of micronutrient deficits. With nothing more than powdered moringa, one can quickly restore the health of a child suffering from even acute malnutrition.”

Anne Biyela brought her eight-year-old grandson Nkanza to the centre for care.

“When we arrived here, my grandson had swollen feet (a warning sign of kwashiorkor, a severe protein deficiency in children).  Many people thought he wouldn’t survive a week. But a daily helping of porridge with moringa powder has really helped him, and now he’s doing well,” she said.

“The centre encouraged us to use the leaves of this plant as a vegetable in all our meals to maintain the health of the whole family.”

Clotilde Kasowa, a Franciscan missionary who runs an orphanage in the Kinshasa commune of Kintambo, told IPS that none of the children presently in her care suffer from anaemia, thanks to moringa supplements. “They get moringa leaves added to their pondu (a popular Congolese dish of cassava leaves) and the powder in their milk and tea,” she said.

“It’s much better than soy, and we also sell moringa powder. A 75 gramme sachet costs 2,500 Congolese francs (around 2.5 dollars).”

Huguette Ifoto, the head of the kitchen at the orphanage, said they had been caring for nearly 70 malnourished orphans, but only 27 remained after the others got better from eating moringa leaves.

Moringa is also playing a role in protecting the health of people living with HIV. Marie Tsimba’s HIV-positive son was acutely malnourished. “My friends advised me to put some moringa in all of his meals. And 45 days later the results have been excellent, and my son is doing well,” she said.

Jean Lukela, coordinator of a national network of community organisations and support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS, says similar stories are common. “Moringa is a good complement for anti-retroviral medicine. When these drugs were not yet available, we advised people to eat moringa seeds to reinforce their immunity,” he said.

“In fact, we still tell people living with the virus the same thing.”

 

 
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