A Change-Breaking Tradition to Improve Child Nutrition

Published July 29, 2015 by

Abbas feeding his young son outside their house in Wajir, Northern KenyaAbbas feeding his young son outside their house in Wajir, Northern Kenya

Until recently, it would have been inconceivable for 45-year-old Abass Bakay Mohamed - with two wives and eleven children- To imagine that he would one day engage in feeding practices for his young children.

Now his attitude is different, and he has become the focal point of a Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) group project by REGAL-IR in the remote village of Dambas, in Wajir County, Kenya. Abass, and other men like him, are challenging the stereotype that caring for children is purely a woman’s affair.

More than half of all child deaths are associated with malnutrition, which weakens the body’s resistance to illness. Poor diet, frequent illness, and inadequate care of young children can lead to malnutrition. If a child is malnourished during the first two years of life, the child’s physical and mental growth and development may be significantly slowed down with the negative effects persisting into adulthood.

With the support of the USAID funded Resilience and Economic Growth in Arid Lands (REGAL-IR) Program, REGAL-IR has targeted fathers for the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) training in Wajir County, and appealed to them to complement the efforts of the women in improving infant and young child feeding practices. REGAL-IR BCC project in Wajir County now has 751 adult beneficiaries of which 110 are men. A total of 1,254 children are directly benefiting from BCC interventions.

During the training, Abass learnt the importance of providing protective foods (fruits and vegetables) that contain vitamins and Micro-nutrients essential to a child’s diet. He also learnt about micro-nutrient powders (MNP), which have been made available free of charge at the health facility at his village for children under two years. “After learning the importance of fruits and vegetables during the training, I become worried because fruits and vegetables were not available in the village and feared my children would not perform well in school like other children whose parents can give them fruits and vegetables when they are growing up.”

“Now, I have been giving MNP and some fruits and vegetable when available to my son after every two days for the last four months. My son’s appetite has improved, his health has also improved with infections such as flu and acute diarrhoea incidence reduced. My son Abdirahman is now very active, happy and healthy. Now I’m very happy too”.

Abass has become the champion of MNP in Dambas village, and a strong advocate of complementary feeding in his village.