Guest blog post by Nicholas Kiger and Angela Rupchock-Shafer, with Church World Service
In the fight against hunger and undernutrition, perhaps the most important timeframe is the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday. The right nutrition during this 1,000 day window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. A community’s long-term economic health, stability and prosperity hangs in the balance when children are at risk. Young children, especially those under two, are at a fragile time in their physical development. Malnutrition and undernutrition during this timeframe can have long-term and irreversible effects -- permanently stunting children and their futures. Church World Service (CWS) is innovating and working with communities, finding ways to safeguard the critical 1,000 days that are community-based, long term and sustainable. The right maternal and child nutrition can have a multiplier affect for kids, their families and their communities. The solutions are known, simple and cost-effective giving us the opportunity to share them with mothers and communities to ensure proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days and beyond.
The ongoing drought in the horn of Africa has created specific challenges in the fight against childhood undernutrition. One CWS program is helping improve the nutrition of 3,000 undernourished children under 3 years old in Mwingi District and Kinago Constituency, Kenya. We have learned that perhaps the most effective approach to addressing the issue of undernutrition is to work directly with the communities and the mothers who are affected. Mothers are provided with micronutrient supplements that contain 14 important vitamins and nutrients. Mothers are learning how to mix the supplements into their children's food. Those mothers who are breastfeeding are taking the supplements themselves to pass directly on to their infants. The vital importance of breastfeeding for a child’s development and health is being stressed to the mothers.
Working with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, another program is training 36 local women to become nutritional teachers themselves in their own villages. The women will teach local mothers about nutrition and organize weekly meetings to monitor young children’s health. By providing the nutrition teachers with resources to help them spread the word, taking care to provide educational materials for all mothers, no matter their educational level, the impact of the program has a wider reach. This approach ensures that the solution to the community’s nutrition is coming from women and mothers from the community. As we learn from the successes of working with these 36 women, we hope to pass that knowledge on to other communities and other countries that are battling undernutrition. Knowledge is power in the fight against undernutrition. That knowledge is also valuable – and life-saving -- and must be passed on.
To learn more about the work of CWS visit www.cwsglobal.org.
Photo credit: Julia Suryantan