|© UNICEF video|
|A mother feeds her child in Koudoumbo, Burkina Faso, where a UNICEF-supported nutrition rehabilitation centre educates women on beneficial feeding practices.|
By Nina Martinek
KOUDOUBMO, Burkina Faso, 21 September 2006 – In this village located in a remote area of Gourcy, Burkina Faso – one of the world’s least developed nations – a recently established nutrition rehabilitation centre is providing life-saving services to moderately undernourished children and their mothers.
The women attend a 12-day programme for two hours each day with their children, who range in age from six months to five years. This is a critical time in child growth and development, so the women are trained in correct complementary feeding as well as exclusive breastfeeding for the youngest children.
Mothers in the programme learn how to prepare nutritious foods from local ingredients such as millet, corn and peanuts. They are also educated on hygiene, sanitation and hand washing practices, all in an effort to ensure optimal health for their children.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF promotes exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then continued breastfeeding in combination with nutritious supplementary foods.|
Community role models
The Koudoubmo programme involves the community in planning, carrying out and taking ownership of health and nutrition projects. For example, two local women – designated as ‘Mother Lumieres’ because of the improved health of their children – act as positive role models who pass on their knowledge and experience to others at the nutrition centre.
UNICEF and its partners believe that educating mothers is an important preventive measure against the recurrence of undernutrition in Burkina Faso. After each 12-week session ends, the weight and height of the children is monitored at regular intervals to ensure continued progress.
“The biggest change I’ve seen is in the greater awareness that something needs to be done,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Esther Guluma. “The education of mothers – in terms of breastfeeding, for example – is just as important as the provision of food for the children.”
Ms. Guluma added that UNICEF enjoys “good collaboration” with the World Food Programme and the non-governmental organization Africare in supporting centres such as the one in Koudoubmo.
|© UNICEF video|
|A child in Burkina Faso rests on his mother’s back while she waits to feed him his first meal of the day.|
Sustainable child nutrition
By training health workers to educate women in the community, UNICEF aims to promote sustainable child nutrition. This is a key step in addressing the critical problem of chronic undernutrition across Africa’s Sahel region, an area that is prone to cyclical drought.
The cycle that adversely affects food security depends on many interlaced factors. The problem is not just the availability of food, but also access to basic services, including health care, education and safe water. Strengthening communities’ capacity to deliver and manage basic services can make a major difference.
That’s why community-based programmes supported by UNICEF to monitor child growth and development are being expanded across Burkina Faso. Nutritional rehabilitation for children and nutrition education for their mothers are progressive steps in the right direction.