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Capacity building for improved nutrition

avatar Yesenia

Helen Keller International’s YALLANDO KLEYA Child Survival Project (2004-2009) was implemented in the Diffa Region of the eastern part of Niger, an isolated part of the country with extremely high levels of under-five mortality and child undernutrition, and very little government and NGO assistance. With support from USAID, HKI built the capacity of health centers and community women’s groups to deliver the Essential Nutrition Actions – a core package of high-impact nutrition-related interventions reinforced with behavior change communications activities. Community radio broadcasts strengthened key messages about optimal nutrition practices.

The project also emphasized integrated control of anemia, which included strengthening the supply and delivery of iron, de-worming tablets, anti-malarial drugs, insecticide treated bed nets and vitamin A supplements, and recommending appropriate dietary changes. Health workers were trained to provide essential nutrition services, and also trained community volunteers to counsel mothers so they would adopt more healthful dietary practices during the 1000 day critical window from pregnancy to age two.

A health worker talks to moms about healthy nutrition practices. ©Helen Keller International/Bartay

The findings of the final survey suggest significant improvements across a range of these targeted practices. The initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth increased from 55% to 85%, while reports of substances other than breast milk given at birth fell from 90% to 51%. The mothers’ reports also indicated major increases in exclusive breastfeeding during the critical first six months, and complementary feeding also improved as the introduction of appropriate foods to children 6-9 months increased from 40% to 72%.

HKI also found evidence of considerable reductions in the risk of vitamin A deficiency among young children. Perhaps most impressively, the prevalence of anemia among pregnant women fell from 40 to 7%, and from 73 to 51% among children 6-23 months.

Helen Keller International