I’m just back from my latest field trip to Katete. On these trips, I’m always aware that, as a 6’2″ white observer with weird hair, my mere presence has an impact on what I’m observing. This was really brought home to me on this trip when I was accompanied by three other white faces. Things got very formal. We didn’t meet about 100 women under tree but half a dozen in a painted room at the back of Kagoro Rural Health Centre.
Despite all of this there was no disguising the enthusiasm for the Kit Yamoyo product especially among the under 5s in the group who, despite the company, were behaving quite normally: crying, gurgling, needing to be fed, just as usual.
It was brilliant to see this little boy reach enthusiastically for the ORS (note the blur in the photo!) that he’d seen being mixed and wanted to try. He was then helped to drink some and when it was taken away wanted more. Then when it was hidden away he wanted to know where it had gone and wanted more.
Now this is behaviour very significant. ORS is pretty unpalatable stuff and in its raw form can even induce vomiting especially if it is not mixed correctly. The Kit Yamoyo ORS on the other hand is coloured and looks tasty and it is flavoured – so it much more palatable. Children see it mixed and want to try it – which is half the battle. I have to admit that the flavour doesn’t quite match up to what the colour promises but it is closer in taste to Fanta than salt water.
After Kagoro we drove on to Chindwale where things were a bit more relaxed – at this point we were down to 3 white faces(!) – and we spoke with a group of women who had all used Kit Yamoyo. There was universal approval of the kit and some moving stories – but bear in mind the white face effect. One woman said that she thought she’d lost her child and was she was crying at the prospect but Kit Yamoyo saved him.
There was universal concern that the distribution of vouchers had stopped, because at this time of the year, as they said, they have no cash and won’t have until they get paid for the crops that they are now harvesting. We pushed and pushed them to try to understand what they would do in this situation if their child got diarrhoea now. Some could generate cash, if they had to, by selling a chicken for example but these were a small minority. For the rest it seems that the local retailer, pictured below, would come under a lot a pressure to give credit.
I came away thinking that in many remote rural areas we will have to continue to subsidise the kit in one way or another – thanks to our Global Giving supporters we already have funds to subsidise nearly 10,000 kits.
For those of you worried about the white bias, please be reassured that the 6-month survey, which was carried out by Zambian enumerators, will soon be available and will shed a more objective light on these observations.