UNICEF, SPRING, FMOH Partners to Improve Infant and Young Child Feeding

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), has unanimously agreed that the Community Infant and Young Child Feeding (CIYCF) project is making good progress in Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State.Arising from a mid-process assessment, they acknowledged that Community-based infant and young child feeding (IYCF) promotion, counseling, and support is one of the key pillars of Infant and young child feeding (IYCF) strategies and a key strategy for combating malnutrition and other diseases associated with high under five mortality rate.

According to them, UNICEF has developed a global counselling package to equip community and health facility workers to support caregivers to optimally feed their infants and young children.

They said Although there has been strong global interest in the C-IYCF Counseling Package with more than 60 countries adopting and implementing it in parts, little is known about its impact on maternal, infant, and young child nutrition practices.

Recall that in 2014, FMOH, UNICEF and SPRING collaborated to understudy and document evidences on the effectiveness of the Community Infant and Young Child Feeding (C-IYCF) Counselling Package adapted for and implemented in Kajuru local government area (LGA) in Kaduna State, Nigeria.

As part of the evaluation process, the State Ministry of Health (SMOH) and Kajuru LGA, with strong support from FMOH and UNICEF is implementing the package.

Also in 2015, 68 health workers, 10 Ward Development Committee members, 10 health authorities and 238 community volunteers selected from 203 communities of the LGA were trained to reach the caregivers. Community dialogues and sensitizations were conducted to encourage the social support and over 2,400 people were reached.

Subsequently, UNICEF’s Communication for Development (C4D) team in January 2016, prepared the existing local theater troupes to perform skits related to IYCF practices being promoted through the C-IYCF program.

The 238 community volunteers trained in the LGA have formed 335 support groups so far and are conducting home visitations. This is increasing the support for breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding for optimal growth among caregivers. So far, Implementation has been going on for over a year. As at June 2016, at least 6145 caregivers had been reached through these support groups.

The Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna – Dr. Florence Oni told journalists on Monday in Kajuru that the initiative was to ensure healthy growth and development of children. Dr. Oni explained that the project was a pilot scheme to deepen caregivers support for breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding for optimal growth of children using the package.

According to her, testimonials from the communities already indicate that exclusive breastfeeding for six months has been embraced and proper complementary feeding adopted by many caregivers. Of special interest to the communities, is the observed ejection of placenta and elimination of postpartum hemorrhage with early initiation of breastfeeding. Placental retention has been a major challenge in the communities with high risk procedures earlier embarked on by the communities due to local believes, increasing the risk of maternal mortality. Testimonials also report decreases in common childhood illnesses, such as diarrhea.

UNICEF recently supported community dialogues and sensitizations to renew support for appropriate infant and young child feeding in Kajuru and to mark the 2016 World Breastfeeding Week. The community volunteers were also presented certificates of commitment as incentives for their continued good work.

During the sensitization, Dr. Oni urged husbands to support their breastfeeding wives with some household chores and to reduce the burden of maintaining the home as well as to provide adequate staple and nutritious foods, for optimal breastfeeding.

She said that breastfeeding was one of the high impact and cost effective interventions needed to reduce under-five mortality. She underscored that exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) and continued breastfeeding till two years with appropriate complementary feeding are major factors in child survival, growth and development as well as in the development of the nation.

“It could save the lives of 820,000 children under five, globally with 85 per cent of them infants each year. This represents about 13 per cent of all under five-child death.

“On average, infants younger than six months who are not breastfed are three to four times more likely to die from various childhood diseases than those who are breastfed”.

“From the national economic point of view, breastfeeding remains an effective, low cost way to boost human capital and stimulate economic growth, preserving the scarce foreign exchange in terms of importation of breastmilk substitutes and drugs for management of disease. While also giving the children equal opportunity to thrive from the start,’’ she said.

She explained that feeding of children the right way is investing for a better future, as the way children are fed and cared for today determines the quality of leaders tomorrow.

Also speaking, the Assistant State Nutrition Officer of the state’s Ministry of Health, Hauwa Usman, explained that the CIYCF programme being implemented in the LGA was with support from UNICEF and SPRING.

Responding, the District Head of Kajuru, Alhaji Sirajo Haruna commended UNICEF for the laudable intervention toward improving the health and the development of women and children.

Alhaji Haruna pledged the continued support of the traditional leaders to the success of the programme until every household embrace exclusive breastfeeding because of its benefits.

Similarly, the District Head of Kasuwan Magani, Alhaji Gambo Yaro, also confirmed that his community has benefited immensely from the CIYCF programme. He disclosed that six out of his 38 children were exclusively breastfed and were healthier and stronger compared with the others that were not.

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