Mothers' Support Groups fight child malnutrition in Bayelsa
Thanks to lessons learned from UNICEF-supported Mothers' Support Groups in Nembe, Bayelsa State - mothers, fathers, and caregivers are now more knowledgeable and intentional about their infants' nutritional needs.
Nembe, Bayelsa State - It’s always a bustle of activity at the weekly Mothers' Support Group meetings in various primary health centres in Nembe LGA of Bayelsa State. Mothers, fathers and other caregivers of infants in the area regularly attend these meetings to learn, take notes and ask questions.
Josephine Wonipre Alabaraba, the nutrition focal person for Nembe LGA in Bayelsa State, manages the Mothers' Support Groups in several primary healthcare centres in the LGA, including the Otatubu Community Health Center and the Nembe Primary Health Centre.
She and several volunteers advise local families on healthy infant nutrition practices. She regularly gives presentations on complementary feeding and breastfeeding and follows up with the families to ensure that they are following the advice given during the meetings. Josephine is of the opinion that the support group has contributed significantly to the health and nutrition of the children in the area.
"Many of them can now say that their babies appear to be in better health. Occasionally, some of the children become ill. A month-old infant will occasionally become ill when they first arrive. When we ask why the baby is sick, the mother will argue that the infant is too young to consume breast milk. Then we teach them that the child only requires about 80% of the water in their breasts, 20% of their food, and water alone.”
Doris Rufus, a 47-year-old grandmother, has been caring for her 1-year-old granddaughter, Lilian, since her daughter died from post-natal complications. She frequently attends these meetings to learn what and how to feed her granddaughter, who is in the complementary feeding stage, in order to keep her strong and healthy. She is an active member of the motherhood support group at Nembe Primary Health Centre.
"I attend these meetings to know what and how to feed my granddaughter. I have learned a lot, and I am happy that she is healthy," said Doris.
Ebisegboruye George, 32, happily breastfeeds her 7-month-old son Testimony Alagwa at the Otatubu Community Health Centre. Ebisegboruye, who is an active member of the group, says that her older children were also exclusively breastfed, and she sees the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. She plans to begin complementary feeding for her son, Testimony.
"I see the benefits of breastfeeding for my child," says Ebisegboruye. This group has been very supportive and there's a lot to learn and share. My older children were also exclusively breastfed, and if you see them, they are all healthy and doing well."
Through Mothers' Support Groups in Bayelsa State, UNICEF works to empower fathers, mothers, and other caregivers to be key agents in promoting healthy nutrition for every child in their community.