With proper nutrition early in life, children are able to grow, develop, and thrive to their full potential. However, if a child is malnourished by age 2, he or she may struggle to catch up developmentally, and may be permanently stunted.
We partner with communities with the goal of ensuring that all children will be properly nourished and developed by the time they reach age 5. If we attain this, children will live a healthy life, as well as know and understand the importance of nutrition.
Mothers are empowered to prevent hunger
Because mothers are key to preventing hunger in a community, many of our prevention efforts are invested in their proper nutritional education. The first 1,000 days of life (conception through the age of 2) is the most essential time of a child’s growth and development. Our empowerment and education efforts focus on encouraging pregnant women to eat the right foods. We promote exclusive breastfeeding through the first 6 months of a child’s life, and mentor all mothers of young children to provide the best possible care for their children.
In mentoring mothers, we help them learn how to select and prepare meals that provide the diversity of vitamins and nutrients that all children need. In conjunction with our livelihood programs, we teach gardening, farming, fishing, and care of chickens and goats for a diverse diet.
Using a peer-education model, we’ve found that the most sustainable behavior change happens when women teach one another. This model, called Care Groups, forms groups of women volunteers who regularly meet with one of our staff for training and supervision. These volunteers then share messages with mothers in order to promote important health behaviors and the use of key health services. Care Groups create a multiplying effect to equitably reach every beneficiary household at low cost.
The educational content of Care Groups focuses on maternal and child health, and use of health facilities, including danger signs for which medical care should be sought. Messages are often based on the results of studies that identify behavioral determinants of key behaviors. Specific modules discuss nutrition and food preparation for young children, education on breastfeeding babies, treatment of diarrhea, and how to recognize danger signs of illness.
Vitamins and Deworming
We work with Vitamin Angels to administer vitamin supplements and deworming medication. These interventions reduce the impact of common illnesses in young children. We also ensure pregnant and lactating mothers have access to multivitamins that include iron folic acid supplementation to benefit their young children.
It only takes two doses of vitamin A per year to combat the harmful effects of vitamin A deficiency. When a child lacks this nutrient during the early stages of development, they can get sick, experience stunted growth, go blind, and even die. Vitamin A strengthens immune systems, which help to fight off life-threatening illnesses for children in our communities who may lack access to the right kinds of foods.
Children in our communities also receive deworming medicine to combat parasitic worms that can lead to malnutrition. Deworming children allows them to absorb the essential nutrients and stay healthy. Any child infected by worms is at risk of malnutrition, even though symptoms aren’t always visible.