A community approach to fight malnutrition

Community health workers play a major role in handling the health and wellbeing of families and children.

Josué Mulala (translated from French by Dorsaf James)
Une relais communautaire en discussion avec une maman et deux enfants
UNICEF DRC Mulala
25 January 2021

Every morning, Victorine visits her Kisangani neighborhood in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to educate families on water management, good hygiene and sanitation practices, and many other essential family practices including appropriate infant and young children feeding.

Equipped with her measuring stick and her MUAC tape, Victorine closely follows the growth of the children in her neighborhood. “Red indicates malnutrition, green shows that the child is healthy, and yellow warns of a malnutrition tendency”, explains Victorine.

Une relais communautaire vérifie le tour de bras d'un enfant
UNICEF DRC Mulala

It is not uncommon for Victorine to detect cases of malnutrition. In the province of Tshopo where she lives, nearly one in two children suffers from chronic malnutrition linked to inadequate and insufficient nutrition. Chronic malnutrition has a direct impact on children's wellbeing, growth, cognitive development, and schooling.

Community health workers are an essential link in the fight against malnutrition. “Exclusive breast-feeding is very important for the growth of the child”, reiterates Victorine to mothers in her neighborhood. In addition to breast-feeding, Victorine promotes complementary feeding from the age of six months by encouraging pregnant women and mothers to regularly attend culinary demonstrations organized by Alphonsine.

Une relais communautaire lors d'une démonstration culunaire
UNICEF DRC Mulala

Alphonsine, a community health worker for many years, explains how to prepare 4-stars meals using local products and recipes to feed the children without having to spend a lot of money. “Porridge is made with cereal, fruits, fish, and egg yolks”, explains Alphonsine to the attendees.

In order to fight chronic malnutrition across the country, UNICEF continues to promote adequate, accessible, and suitable food and hygiene practices, particularly exclusive breast-feeding for up to 6 months followed by a rich, balanced, inexpensive, and locally available complementary feeding for up to 24 months.