The Inquirer (Monrovia)

29 January 2013

Liberia: DCI, MOH, EU & Unicef Promotes Proper Nutrition for Liberian Children

Development Communication Initiative (DCI) in collaboration with Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, the European Union, and UNICEF today January 26, 2013, embarked on an eight day Nutrition awareness outreach activity within Montserrado County. The aim of this activity is to engage community dwellers and to help encourage key best practices in the area of nutrition for children.

Speaking to journalists on Saturday at the Fiamah market in Sinkor, the head of DCI stressed the need for proper nutrition and its impact on the growth of the country. "Eighty percent of the human brain develops between conception, until the child is two years old, said Mr. Bennie Johnson, Executive Director of DCI. "This window of opportunity is a crucial period to ensure that proper nutrition takes place. Huge thanks to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the EU and UNICEF for funding this activity. As current data shows, undernutrition is a serious problem in Liberia and we need to cover the entire country with these messages", he said.

During these eight days, key and complementary messages on early initiation of breast milk, exclusive breast feeding for 6 months, and complementary feeding will be rolled out in over 30 urban communities.

Chronic malnutrition (stunting) remains an enduring problem at 42% in Liberia with one of the highest rates in West Africa. Almost 60% children still suffer from anaemia. Poor infant and young child feeding and care (IYCF) practices are the key reasons for undernutrition.

"Using various communication channels, our communication strategy with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is geared towards engaging communities a more interpersonal basis to trigger positive behavior change within communities", says Mr. Adolphus Scott, UNICEF Communication for Development Specialist. "Our goal is to drastically reduce the number of undernourished children within our country by 2015. We are working closely with the Ministries of Health& Social Welfare, Education, Gender & Development, and other stakeholders in helping to promote positive nutrition behaviors, and advocate for better nutrition for children at various levels of the society."

The high level of stunting and anaemia is affecting survival and depriving children of optimum development resulting in irreversible intellectual potential loss. To address this, in line with the Essential Package of Health Services (EPHS) plan, the Government has a plan to scale up the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) package with seven critical and proven nutrition behaviours and interventions in all counties by 2014.

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