By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Alive & Thrive (A&T) has spelt out how it plans to scale up Infant and Young Children Feeding (IYCF) in Kaduna and Lagos States.
“In Nigeria, A&T will work with the government of Nigeria and other key stakeholders to increase and improve IYCF in metropolitan Lagos and in rural and urban Kaduna States,” Victor Ogbodo, Project Director, Alive and Thrive Nigeria, narrated.
According to him, the overall nutritional status of children in Nigeria has slightly improved over the last decade, nevertheless, the country is still ranked among the world’s highest child mortality rates and some of the rates of recommended IYCF practices.
The exclusive breastfeeding rate of 0-6 months old – a practice that can significantly reduce child deaths – has remained unchanged in Nigeria since 2008 at 17 per cent,” Ogbodo disclosed.
He said that additionally, only 10 per cent of children aged six to 23 months in Nigeria, nationwide, are fed adequately and appropriately based on recommended IYCF practices.
“A&T’s proven framework”, the project director claimed, “has the potential to make a significant impact on sub-optimal infant and young child feeding practices in Nigeria.”
Ogbodo pointed out that his organization will work with its public and private sector advocacy partners and networks to raise awareness of the impact that IYCF practices have on health and economic well-being.
“The aim”, he expatiated, “will be to reach a broad audience of opinion leaders with compelling and actionable information to create an enabling environment at the national, state and community levels.”
The illustrative examples which he provided to buttress his assertion is that A&T will engage in advocacy for “rollout and implementation of the Nigeria National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition.”
His organization, Ogbodo added, will advocate stronger implementation and awareness of the existing Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes as well as expanded maternity entitlements at the federal and state levels n the public and private sectors.
The project director unfolded how A&T will use research-based data in its activities in Nigeria. Having regard to this claim, Ogbodo declared : “To assess mothers’ knowledge and elf-efficacy, perceptions of social norms, beliefs about the outcomes of the recommended behaviours, and to identify their current practices, A&T will work with research specialists to design and conduct surveys, household observations, trials of improved practices and in-depth interviews.
“We will also interview family members, frontline workers and others who influence mothers’ belief and behaviours to understand community barriers and the quality, quantity and timing of healthcare and IYCF information and services available to women.”
Concerning routine monitoring data, Ogbodo said that A&T will conduct a baseline and endline survey to measure the impact of its efforts on IYCF practices. “We”, he continued, “will also work together with national and state authorities to strengthen existing community health management information systems (HMIS) to collect data to improve programme quality and promote evidence-based decision-making.”
Alive & Thrive is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by FHI-360. It is an initiative founded to save lives, prevent illness and ensure healthy growth and development in infants through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices.
By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos