Preventing Malnutrition in Children Under Age 2 Years in Zambia Through Community-Led Complementary Feeding and Learning Sessions
How children are fed during their first 2 years of life shapes their future. Through the Feed the Future Zambia Mawa project, CRS is helping to safeguard those futures by bolstering nutrition during the critical first 1,000 days—beginning from a woman’s pregnancy to the first 2 years of her infant’s life. Nearly 960 trained nutrition volunteers educate more than 10,000 women with children under age 2years on how to best feed their growing babies.
During monthly home visits, volunteers monitor children’s growth and expectant mothers’ nutritional status. Those showing signs of faltering growth are enrolled in an intensive 12-day course on community-led complementary feeding and learning.
During the course, the mothers engage in drama, talks, and songs to build their knowledge on the importance of prolonged breastfeeding, how critical hygiene is, and ways to optimally feed and care for their children. The group setting creates a support network that helps the mothers remember their lessons. Through hands-on cooking demonstrations, they learn to create menus and prepare food while preserving the maximum nutritional value. Ingredients are locally produced, seasonally available, and high-nutrient value crops. By practicing together, program participants are able to build the necessary skills to cook the same meals at home.
After the mothers have completed the course, volunteers conduct follow-up home visits to answer questions, monitor children’s growth, and encourage caregivers to continue their new nutrition practices. On average, 3 months following their mother’s participation in the program, children will have gained 2.2 pounds; 6 months later, 3.7 pounds. Children who are not showing improvement are referred to local health facilities for follow-up assessment and counseling.
By 2017, Mawa will reach 19,000 children younger than age 2 years. The goal is to reduce stunting by 20 percent in the project area.