UNICEF in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Kaduna State Office, has mobilised 5,000 community members in 50 communities to promote Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), and Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) practices in the state.
The 5,000 community members, including parents, caregivers and community leaders, were engaged in community dialogue in five Local Government Areas of the state; namely Igabi, Lere, Giwa, Kachia and Soba.
UNICEF Focal Person, NOA Kaduna, Malam Lawal Haruna, told newsmen in Kachia on Tuesday that the goal was to enlighten parents and caregivers on how to prevent malnutrition.
Haruna identified adequate IYCF and EBF practices as effective means of preventing under-five malnutrition, stressing however that IYCF and EBF practices was still very low among parents and caregivers.
He attributed the high rate of malnutrition in the state to poor feeding practices, such as inadequate breastfeeding and not ensuring that children gets enough nutritious food in the first 1,000 days of life.
He added that due to low level of knowledge, cultural beliefs and practices, parents, caregivers and community leaders do not encourage the recommended practice of early initiation of breastfeeding.
The official equally noted that inadequate complementary feeding and proper hygiene practices in communities also predisposed under-five children to preventable diseases.
He also said that the use of baby formula also known as Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) not only affect the cognitive development of a child but incur huge economic losses on the family.
“In Kaduna State maternal, Infant and Young Child feeding practice have remained unsatisfactory with the rate of timely breastfeeding initiation as low as 19.3 per cent.
“More so, only 8.4 per cent infants are exclusively breast fed and only 10 per cent of children aged six to 23 months are fed appropriately.
“As a result, about 42 per cent of children under-five years in the state are suffering from acute under nutrition and 52.1 per cent stunted from chronic under-nutrition.
“National Nutrition and Health Survey 2015 indicates that infant mortality rate of 103 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality rate of 169 per 1000 live births,” he said.
Haruna identified community dialogue as the best way of tackling the problem by bringing together all the concerned members of the community to discuss issues around IYCF and EBF and together decide how to address the challenges.
According to him, the dialogue is designed to create the needed awareness and educate community members and caregivers on the importance of EBF in the prevention of malnutrition.
“The measure was also to improve family skills in the practice of IYCF and EBF in the communities, identify barriers and other challenges affecting the practice and proffer solutions.
“We expected that awareness would increase knowledge and practices of IYCF and EBF for the survival and development of children.
“At the end of the day, we hope to develop community action plans for regular engagement of community members to ensure adherence to essential household practices against malnutrition and other child killer diseases.”