By Nardos Birru
BOLOSO SORE, SOUTHERN NATIONS, NATIONALITIES AND PEOPLE’S REGION, 26 January 2017 – It was a sunny afternoon at the Chamahinbecho health post and the trees planted by health extension workers 10 years ago provided much needed shade in the compound. A group of mothers were sitting under the trees discussing how to best feed their toddlers and among them was Beyenech.
The cheery Beyenech, a mother of three, came to the health post to get her 1-year-old son weighed as part of the growth monitoring and promotion session that they attend on a monthly basis.
“I bring my son here every month and the health extension worker measures his weight and gives me advice,” says Beyenech. “She teaches us how to prepare meals for our children using different foods. I can see that my child is growing healthy and am glad to hear that [confirmed by] the health extension worker.”
Beyenech is among the many mothers in Chamahinbecho kebele (sub-district) who are benefiting from a project supported by the European Union called EU-SHARE. The project aims to contribute to improved nutritional status of children under five, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women through strengthening nutrition outcomes of Government health, food security and livelihood programmes. The strategy involves integration of the multi-sector interventions at the household level to create synergetic effects that will maximize programme results.
Nutrition services for adolescents
It is not only Beyenech’s son who is benefiting from the nutrition services at the health post; her 15-year-old daughter has participated in the deworming campaign organized for adolescent students in the kebele. Beyenech speaks of her daughter, “Wubalem received a deworming tablet from the adolescent deworming campaign at her school last year. She also told me about the nutrition and hygiene practices that she heard from group discussion sessions during the campaign.”
Deworming of intestinal worms and schistosomiasis is an important service for young students, as both ailments affect the health and education of children and adolescents. A student with worms will be too sick or tired to attend school or will have difficulty concentrating in school. If left untreated over time, they may face stunting or malnutrition due to anaemia, as well as impaired cognitive development.
The Government-led programme, which is supported by EU-SHARE, contributes to the health and nutrition status of adolescents while improving school attendance rates. EU-SHARE project supports the programme through procurement of deworming tablets, provision of information, education and communication as well as behavioural change communication materials that are helpful to create awareness and initiate discussion on nutritional requirements during adolescence. The programme also includes technical support to health workers who carry out the deworming campaigns. Students like Wubalem have a better chance to succeed with their education due to initiatives like these.
Improving dietary diversity through backyard gardening
EU-SHARE also includes nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions which is implemented by FAO as part of the Government’s commitment to integrate nutrition into the agriculture sector. Promotion of backyard gardening is among the initiatives being implemented in the kebele.
After meeting the eligibility criteria targeting vulnerable families, Beyenech has been selected among the 1,960 beneficiaries targeted for seed supplementation led by the woreda agriculture office. She received vegetable seeds and began growing carrots, cabbage and tomato in her backyard garden. Beyenech explained, “I started preparing a porridge mixed with vegetables from my garden, using what I learned from the cooking demonstrations at the health post. I also prepare roasted vegetables along with shiro wot [chickpea stew] for the rest of my children.”
Beyenech aspires for her children to have a better future. She wants them to be top students and become teachers or doctors so they have the knowledge and skills to impact the next generation in the community.
“Such type of nutrition interventions that consider integration as a cornerstone by addressing the different aspects of nutrition are a key weapon to combat the problem of malnutrition in a sustainable manner,” said Israel Mulualem, the nutrition focal person in Boloso Sore woreda health office.
The four-year EU-Share programme has been operational since 2015 and continues to support children, mothers and their families in seventeen woredas located in SNNP, Oromia and Amhara regions. Together with the Government of Ethiopia and donors such as the European Union, UNICEF is able to support existing initiatives of Government programmes so that children such as Wubalem, Setot and Teketel may have a bright future.