Charlotte Morgan-Fallah, Associate Director, Investments
I recently returned from my first visit to Côte d’Ivoire with The Power of Nutrition. The aim of the visit was to monitor progress in the delivery of the Multisectoral Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Programme, which aims to improve the lives of vulnerable women and children through positive nutrition and early stimulation. During the trip, we visited several communities in the north of Côte d’Ivoire, where we met mothers and families doing their very best for their children – but sadly so many had signs of undernutrition. In one community, we met the two young girls (pictured below), both 4 years old, but sadly very different in stature, suggesting a likelihood of stunting in one little girl, with the lifelong effects this brings with it. This is why this programme is so important.
The Power of Nutrition, with investment from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC – a partnership between Bernard Van Leer Foundation, Jacobs Foundation and UBS Optimus Foundation), has contributed US$10.4m, alongside a US$50m International Development Association (IDA) investment from the World Bank, into the US$60.4m Multisectoral Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Programme. The programme is supporting the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to strengthen nutrition and early childhood development systems and services from national to regional to sub-regional and community levels.
A key component of the approach is the establishment, training and mobilisation of community-level steering committees and groups (called FRANCs). These groups will lead community-level nutrition and early childhood development activities to empower parents, households and communities, inspire behaviour change, and promote access to, and utilisation of, key health and nutrition services.
For example, the FRANCs will support parents to give their children the best start during the critical first 1,000 days, from conception to the age of two. They will do this by promoting exclusive breastfeeding for children 0-5 months and the consumption of a diverse, nutritious diet among children 6-23 months; supporting community management of acute malnutrition; and ensuring pregnant women attend four antenatal care visits, take iron and folic acid, and eat a varied diet. Given the complementarity of positive nutrition and early stimulation on physical and cognitive outcomes for children, the programme also includes integrated parental education on early childhood development.
This community-led approach ensures interventions are locally owned, relevant, and are sustained by being embedded into social and cultural norms and behaviours. However, the groups are also connected within a wider network, which includes frontline health and nutrition service providers, prefectoral authorities and regional government structures, which link all the way up to the national government. This programme aims to build capacity of, and coordination between, every link of this health and nutrition chain to achieve national, systemic change.
During the visit, it was great to see how motivated government representatives were at all levels – the sense of ownership of the programme and its outcomes was clear. This bodes well for future sustainability, as government coordination, leadership and ownership are key. It was also positive to see the commitment and determination at the community level, among members of the steering committees and the FRANCs, including some very dynamic female leaders. It was encouraging to see this solid foundation upon which subsequent programme activities will be built. We are looking forward to revisiting these communities in the future to see how the vision of this programme has been translated into tangible and sustainable changes in the lives of women and children.
As always, I was inspired by meeting determined mothers and families doing everything they can to give their children the best possible chance in life. Mothers such as Hawa (pictured below) who is exclusively breastfeeding her baby girl. Through this programme, mothers like Hawa, who didn’t realise that giving her children locally available fruit is an important part of a nutritious, diverse diet, will have the knowledge and tools they need to give their children the best start in life.
I left Côte d’Ivoire feeling optimistic about the potential impact of the programme on the lives of women and children, particularly in terms of inspiring change at all levels – from national government to regional authorities to local communities – to combat stunting and change the lives of women and children, now and into the future. The community-level activities are only just beginning, and we have a long way to go to ensure the vision of this programme becomes a sustainable reality, but the foundations are there to achieve long-lasting, systemic change. This is what The Power of Nutrition does best – working with experienced, committed partners, blending and multiplying resources, and channelling them towards joined-up, national-scale programmes, which have the potential to achieve real and long-lasting change.
For more information please contact Charlotte at email@example.com