Keeping Nutrition at the Center of CARE’s Work

With generous funding from the Sall Family Foundation, CARE is implementing the five-year (2012-2017) Nutrition at the Center Program, which aims to reduce anemia in girls and women ages 15 to 49, and stunting and anemia in children from birth to 24 months by integrating maternal, infant and early childhood nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); food security; and women’s empowerment initiatives. To date, Nutrition at the Center has reached more than 200,000 women, men and children through almost 5,400 peer groups – including mother-to-mother support groups, village savings and loan associations, social analysis and action and adolescent girls’ groups.

Nutrition at the Center has reached mothers, their children, and influential household and community members through an integrated intervention model of malnutrition prevention, care, and support; while continuing to work towards the goal of a 13% reduction in anemia in women and children and a 9% decrease in child stunting. The integrated components of CARE’s approach include:

Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN): Achieving large-scale change in MIYCN practices is challenging and takes time. To facilitate the process, CARE creates “trans formative group” platforms that increase the number of mothers receiving nutrition education, create a social environment supporting change, and allow peers to share experiences and best practices for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding. These groups may include mothers’ support groups, male support groups, adolescent girls’ groups, and Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA – a self-managed group that provides it’s members a safe place to save money and access loans).

Food Security: Nutrition at the Center is engaging thousands of households, government officials, and community members on improved food security practices— including training and technical support on climate smart agriculture for homestead gardens and food production, developing season calendars, sharing seedlings, and promotion of Vitamin A intake.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): In an effort to improve WASH practices in target communities, Nutrition at the Center engages VSLA members and mother-to-mother support groups in building household handwashing systems such as ‘tippy-taps’ — a basic hand washing station made from a water bottle or suspended by a rope — to reduce oral-fecal disease transmission in households.

Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity: Nutrition at the Center uses a comprehensive approach to achieve gender equality and works beyond just women to do so. In addition to reaching women through VSLAs and mother-to-mother support groups, the project engages with men and influential people through existing platforms, drama groups, and dialogues to question and transform norms around gender which have resulted in increased support for women and improved practices around optimum breastfeeding, increased hygiene, and home gardens.

What has been achieved so far?

Pregnant and lactating mothers from more than 68,000 households, 4,667 Social Analysis and Action groups (SAA—a process promoting gender equity through facilitated community dialogue to address norms affecting food and nutrition security), mother-to-mother support groups, and 3,467 VSLAs have received peer support, along with counseling at their households and health facilities to improve complementary feeding and breastfeeding practices.

More than 5,000 government health and agriculture staff, community volunteers, educators, and development agents have been trained or supported to assist mothers and caregivers to enhance their own diets and improve feeding and care for their children.

More than 5,000 men have engaged in VSLA and SAA group sessions or tuned-in to—and participated in discussions following—radio programs that integrate maternal and early childhood nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene; and food security topics and participated in discussions following each episode.

In Benin, 4,000 VLSA members campaigned during World Breastfeeding Week and marched for the integration of nutrition promotion in their local government budget; resulting in the commitment of $2,500 USD by local authorities of the ministry to support nutrition activities.

In Bangladesh, 1,200 adolescent girls from 21 schools and five communities have received nutritional counseling and IFA tablets to prevent anemia and build iron reserves that can help prevent maternal anemia when they become pregnant.

More than 10,000 households have received technical support to engage in homestead food production, including vegetable gardening and small animal rearing to ensure year round access to dietary diversity and animal source foods.

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