Parish Chief champions Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Programme in Amudat District

Improving the lives of Karamoja children

By Kenneth Mulondo
infant nutrition
UNICEF Uganda/2017/Bongyereirwe
28 November 2017

“My Husband and I underestimated the importance of playing and stimulating the child. Now after a talking session through the visit by Ms. Chemanang Lemu, Parish Development Committee (PDC) member of Kangoron Village under Lochengenge Parish, I have learnt by doing this, I see the immediate positive effect that it is having on my child,” says Ms. Maureen Cheponarewo.

Ms. Cheponarewo is one of many members of the community in Lochengenge and Jumbe parishes in Amudat District who are benefiting directly from the home visits conducted by the Parish Development Committee (PDC) members. Their core duties lies in providing counselling and guidance to mothers on learning more above the benefits of nutrition and early childhood development by sharing practical simple solutions around play and communication from the Key Family Care Practices Community Owned Resource Persons (CORPS) manual.

Ms. Cheponarewo was visited by Ms. Chemanang Lemu a PDC member whom she commended for the wide range of knowledge and skills that she provides. She has seen great progress in her 2 and half month’s old son, Hosea’s development. “I had started thinking of giving Hosea some little porridge, because of his big appetite, but Lemu our PDC member visited me and encouraged me to continue the exclusive breastfeeding…” mentions Ms. Maureen Cheponarewo.

The PDCs are part of the Communication for Development (C4D) capacity building activities being conducted to support programme delivery under the Nutrition and Health thematic programme in the Government of Uganda - UNICEF Country Programme 2016 – 2020.

The overall programme goal is to facilitate a targeted approach to community structures such as the PDCs who after C4D capacity building in coordinating activities on nutrition and ECD shall provide constant guidance and counselling on exact messages to parents/ caregivers on the best methods of improving their children’s nutrition and early childhood development.

Mr. Simon Lemu, Parish Chief of Lochengenge Parish in Amudat District was also part of the C4D capacity building workshop that helped create an awareness and improve on his knowledge on how to delivery messages to households about the roles and responsibilities of parents/ caregivers in adopting integrated Key Family Care Practices.

These practices are evidence based through over 20 years of research and clearly illustrate the importance of promoting proper nutrition and early childhood development related activities.

Mr. Lemu leads a parish of 5 villages with a total population of approximately 4,500 people and agrees that the C4D intervention of capacity building on how to deliver appropriate messages for behaviour change and practice to overall assist with an all rounded early growth and development of their young children. “The biggest challenge in my community is the high prevalence of underweight children and its related negative side effects. Therefore I will fully support any efforts to address this problem,” says Mr. Lemu Simon.

Community mobilization for Nutrition and Early Child Development has been positioned by the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development (MoGLSD) with support from UNICEF and funding from UKaid will be established through the existing community structures due to the fact that the nutrition specific practices are achieved at home.

Through this initiative, UNICEF is building the sustainability for the Government of Uganda’s community engagement strategy under MoGLSD by providing the required capacity building, community-based action planning and mobilization. The results are being measured through the inclusion of the communication for development indicators in the reporting formats for programme delivery under the Nutrition programme.

The main structures under this programme include the PDCs and also the Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) initiative. With the activities being directly implemented by the District Community Development Offices (DCDOs) in 19 Districts.

Mr. Lemu believes that this is achievable since communication easily trickles down through the PDCs that are also part of the local council leadership. Considering that the PDC members’ capacities were built in Nutrition and ECD, he has tasked them to reach out to at least 5 households within their catchment areas. In order to pilot the counseling and guidance on the Key Family Care Practices at homes the programme goal is to improve overall Nutrition and Early Childhood Development of children below 8 years in their parishes.

Despite the common challenges of food shortages due to the erratic climatic conditions, the PDC members visited - Ms. Chemanang Lemu, the PDC member from Kangoron Village and Ms. Betty Cheruto Aboilem, the PDC member from Kamutiken Village, confirmed that the families were positive and appreciated the discussions on Nutrition and Early Childhood Development.

On her part, Ms. Frida Amorun, District Community Development Officer (DCDO) from Amudat District commends Lochengenge and Jumbe parishes for being proactive in rolling out the Nutrition and Early Childhood Development programme as envisaged by the MoGLSD with support from UNICEF in further support of the implementation of the District Action Plan for Nutrition from the Uganda National Action Plan.

“Amudat District has so far had 100 PDC members and 60 FAL Instructors from 4 sub-counties attend capacity building workshops in Nutrition and Early Childhood Development. Now plans are now underway to train more PDC members in order to improve on home care through the adoption of Key Family Care Practices that shall offer many mothers, parents and caregivers experience the joy of Mrs. Cheponarewo and her Hosea,” said Ms. Amorun.