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Felicienne Soton is part of a women's group that produces gari (cassawa flour). She and her group in Adjegounle village have greatly benefited from Benin's national CDD project. Photo: © Arne Hoel/World Bank.

Supporting children with better nutrition in Benin

This programme aims to improve mothers’ and children’s nutritional wellbeing through supporting the government directly with coordination and planning, increasing community understanding around nutrition (particularly for their children) and increasing the quality of nutrition services for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

PARTNERS

  • UK Aid
  • UNICEF
  • UBS Optimus Foundation

SDGS SUPPORTED

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health & Wellbeing
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 17 - Partnership for the Goals

CONVENED FUNDS

$8m

LOCATION

Benin - Alibori, Borgou & Zou

DATES

2019 - 2024

Malnutrition is a significant problem in Benin, particularly for young children. According to the World Food Programme, nearly one in three children (32%) suffer from chronic malnutrition, which can lead to stunted growth, cognitive impairment, and weakened immune systems.

The Government of Benin has committed to improving nutrition for women and children but has lacked the budget and expertise to fully implement its nutrition strategy and deliver adequate nutrition services. In addition, there is limited knowledge of what makes a healthy diet and knowledge around nutrition in communities. Systemic constraints, social norms and a lack of trained health professionals all contribute to high rates of stunting.

Benin has a young population - nearly half of its citizens are under 18. This presents a huge opportunity for economic growth, but only if the challenge of malnutrition is overcome.

Our programme

The Power of Nutrition’s programme in Benin works in partnership with UNICEF and local delivery partners to support the Government’s vision to ensure “each person enjoys a satisfactory nutritional status to participate fully in the development of an emerging Benin”. It targets three regions with the highest burden of stunting – Alibori, Borgou, and Zou – taking a three-pillared approach to tackle undernutrition.

  1. Strengthening national and decentralised planning and coordination of nutrition programming
  2. Enhancing people’s understanding of exclusive breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding practices, complementary feeding and dietary diversification, focusing on pregnant women, mothers, caregivers, key community influencers and community health workers
  3. Increasing access to quality nutrition services for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank

Programme interventions

Social and behavioural change

Improving knowledge around nutrition through social and behaviour change campaigns on infant and young child feeding at individual, family and community levels.

Maternal support

Strengthening maternal nutrition, antenatal care and iron and folic acid supplementation.

Community training

Training community health workers to promote recommended feeding practices.

Advocacy

Advocating for the prioritisation of nutrition within the government so it can achieve national nutrition targets through a costed plan for nutrition.

Soumanou's story

At 23 months, Soumanou only weighed 8.1kg and could not walk. With help from a 'model mothers' group supported through this programme, Soumanou started to receive growth monitoring and regular nutritious meals. In just 12 days, her weight increased to 8.5kg. Today, she weighs 9.10kg after six weeks and can now walk.

Soumanou's mother Zime, could not be more delighted with the results and the support of the mothers' group. She had this to say:

Two months ago, my daughter was so weak. She could neither walk nor eat properly. I did not know how to feed her or what to give her to eat to grow well. Then, one day, mothers from my village invited me to participate in their group discussions. Every day we cooked together healthy, balanced meals for our children, with the help of “model mothers” who gave us advice on how to prepare a balanced meal with the four food groups available locally.
Soumanou
Soumanou, (C) UNICEF
PROGRAMME IMPACT

Progress to date

1.4k

health workers trained

470k

mothers engaged

15k

children treated

Photo: © Arne Hoel/World Bank.

The programme has targeted hundreds of thousands of women, children, and health workers, demonstrating an ongoing scale-up of nutrition interventions throughout the country.

Nearly half a million (471,950) new mothers of children aged 6-23 months were reached with activities focusing on complementary feeding, continuous exclusive breastfeeding, and dietary diversification.

More than half a million (511,468) pregnant women received antenatal care and iron and folic acid supplementation, and data shows that pregnant women are consistently taking iron and folic acid supplementation, as well as following advice on early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding, and complementary feeding. 14,954 children aged 6-59 months have been treated for severe acute malnutrition in inpatient and outpatient programmes. The programme also shows success in the reach of its training: 1,441 community health workers and 37 community health workers’ supervisors were trained and equipped, and finally, the use of awareness-raising approaches to support facilitators, volunteers and influencers focusing on infant and young child feeding began.

Next steps

Despite significant achievements made by the programme so far, Benin has been struggling with increasing violence because of conflict in the Sahel spilling into the country. This has destabilised certain departments and led to people fleeing their homes, including asylum seekers from abroad and internally displaced people. 60% of these people are children. This violence not only makes it harder to implement activities, but it also means people are more vulnerable and have increased nutritional needs, which increases strain on the programme.

This, coupled with the fact that financial support to Benin is very low, jeopardises the future of nutrition programming in the country. The Power of Nutrition is working closely with UNICEF to ensure the programme continues in the most effective and sustainable way and navigates these challenges to ensure the least impact possible on the population.

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Photo credit

Body image: UNICEF/Benin/2022