The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Kaduna State Government have taken steps to strengthen Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices to prevent malnutrition among children under five years.
Dr Zakari Adam, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Kaduna, made this known in Zaria on Friday, at the ongoing three-day training of Community Volunteers (CVs) from Sabon Gari Local Government Area of the state.
Adam, who was represented by the Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna, Mrs Chinwe Ezeife, said that the move was to promote adequate IYCF practices in communities.
According to him, IYCF which comprises of early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months and appropriate complementary feeding is a proven preventive measure against malnutrition.
“I thank the state government for opening its doors and working with UNICEF to train relevant stakeholders, such as community members and volunteers for effective community sensitisation on adequate IYCF practices.
The Director of Primary Health Care in the council, Mr Yamusa Umar, thanked UNICEF and the state government for training the CVs to sensitize mothers and caregivers on best IYCF practices.
Umar noted that most women in the area do not practice exclusive breastfeeding, and do not know how to prepare appropriate complementary feeding that would provide infants with required nutrients after six months.
“This training will equip the CVs with requisite knowledge and skills to effectively sensitize women and fathers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and how to prepare nutritious complementary food,” he said.
Mrs Jamila Ango, Nutrition Focal Person in the LGA, acknowledged a knowledge gap among women and caregivers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and age-appropriate complementary feeding in the area.
“We have food items, but ways of preparing the meals to get the desired nutrients remained a challenge among our women, but with this training, I am sure the issue will be address,” she said.
One of the Resource Person, Mr Mohammed Hassan, a Fellow of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, said that the objective of the training was to equip the CVs with the skills to promote appropriate IYCF in communities.
Hassan said that over 80 per cent of the women in the area have heard about exclusive breastfeeding, but less than 15 per cent practice it, indicating a huge gap between knowledge and practice.
“This is the first time we are giving the CVs comprehensive training on IYCF so that they will have the courage, confidence and knowledge to pass the IYCF information to community members.
“After the training, each of them will go to her respective communities and form three Breastfeeding Support Groups made of 15 to 20 members: pregnant women, breastfeeding women, men, grandparents.
“During their meetings, they will be disseminating information on nutrition during pregnancy; the kind of food to eat, attending antenatal care, immunisation and other good nutrition practices.
“They will also be discussing nutrition during infancy, early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breast feeding for six months and complementary feeding, weaning practices, personal hygiene, child spacing and growth monitoring,” he said.
Similarly, Mrs Jane Gwani, a retired State Nutrition Officer, said that malnutrition was on the increase in the state and described IYCF as strategic in addressing the scourge.
“The training is timely so that a mother will know what to do the moment she becomes pregnant, when she gives birth and up to the time the baby reaches two years and beyond,” Gwani said.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz