Marotholi Outreach – nutritional rehabilitation and malnutrition prevention for children in vulnerable communities

Dr Lesego Ndhlovu, is a Paediatric Gastroenterology doctor by profession and the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marotholi Outreach. While practising as a doctor and training as a paediatrician, Dr Ndhlovu was overly concerned about the cases of malnutrition that were presenting in the hospitals where she worked. It was then that together with her friend Dr Keketso Mopeli-Tshehla Marotholi Outreach was founded. 

Marotholi Outreach works with a team of volunteers who conduct screenings in children to prevent malnutrition

Marotholi Outreach is a non-profit public benefit organisation based in Soweto and Tembisa townships in South Africa. Its mission is to identify at-risk children from vulnerable communities with signs of growth faltering early and to rehabilitate them nutritionally before they progress to established malnutrition. Marotholi performs community-based nutritional screenings on children under 5 years using anthropometry and nutritional histories every 6 weeks.  

A Marotholi volunteer screens a child in one of their many outreaches in low income Townships of Tembisa and Soweto, South Africa

Parents of at-risk children receive one-on-one nutritional counselling and rehabilitation by Marotholi Outreach’s team of volunteer doctors and dieticians. Marotholi also provides fortified food packs to the families of these vulnerable children.  

Since its first outreach in 2017, Marotholi has performed over 750 nutritional screenings on nearly 400 children under 5 years and has managed to achieve catch-up growth in over 60% of children with malnutrition. 

Marotholi volunteers offer nutrition advice and rehabilitation to prevent malnutrition in young children in South Africa

In May 2022, The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) selected Dr Ndhlovu’s application for funding alongside fourteen other Youth Ventures Programme (YVP) grant recipients. Through the YVP, QCT will provide Marotholi Outreach with flexible funding and practical tools for a period of up to three years. This support will facilitate Marotholi Outreach’s service expansion to more vulnerable communities in informal settlements across South Africa to remedy signs of growth faltering early and to rehabilitate them nutritionally before they progress to established malnutrition.  

Their long-term goal is to become a mobile service, which will enable access to vulnerable children in hard-to-reach places. Marotholi also aspires to increase the total number of screenings performed on vulnerable children and to operate at least two sites. QCT funding will enable these expansion plans to be actioned successfully. 

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