23 October 2016

Ethiopia: Realizing First 1,000 Days Nutrition

During the recently held national workshop on Sustainable Under-nutrition Reduction in Ethiopia (SURE) with the theme: 'Addressing Under-nutrition Through Multi-sectoral Intervention-SURE, Ministries of Health, Education, Women and Children, Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as Livestock and Fishery have jointly launched the national nutrition programme dubbed as 'The First 1,000 Days Nutrition' aimed at promoting complementary feeding and dietary diversity as well as achieving sustainable under-nutrition reduction in Ethiopia.

Speaking on the occasion First Lady Roman Tesfaye underlined that the first 1,000 days between the woman's pregnancy and her child's 2nd birth are crucial in-terms of creating millions of healthier and prosperous children in the country. "It as well plays significant role in owning active and productive citizens in the future."

So long as a child is able to get good nutrition during the first days, he/she will have sharp physical and cognitive development.

According to Roman, the social and economic impacts of child under-nutrition in Ethiopia is huge as the nation annually loses 4.5 billion USD from its GDP.

She also called on the government, local media outlets, pertinent bodies and the public at large to enhance role in deepening awareness towards this newly launched nutrition programme and to renew their commitment to Sekota Deceleration aiming to end hunger and under-nutrition by 2030 in Ethiopia.

Citing the significance of eating protein rich foods like eggs, fish, meat and dairy foods, State Minister for Livestock Development, Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes noted that starting this year, his ministry will begin to mark the International Egg Day on October 5 every year at national level. By doing so, the ongoing efforts to boost the egg consumption and production in the country will be hasten. It will also help disseminating timely and essential information about egg to the general public, the State minister added.

According to Gebregziabher, a large number of Ethiopian farmers do not consume the protein rich foods that are produced by themselves. They rather sell them. So public mobilization is crucial in this regard.

In fact, the Ethiopian government together with the international development partners have been aggressively working to address the underlying causes of maternal and child mortality in the country.

At this juncture, almost all mothers are getting prenatal and neonatal health-care services in all corners of the country than ever before. Moreover, during the past two decades, the national vaccination coverage has been increasing tremendously.

Apart from working to reduce maternal and child mortality, the nation has been busy improving the national nutrition status. For instance, over the last five years, stunting has significantly been reduced at national level.

According to Ministry of Health, five to six million mothers and children living in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and SNNP states have successfully prevented chronic children malnutrition during the first 1,000 days-from the start of a woman's pregnancy to the child's second birthday.

During those first 1,000 days, thousands of household have been made to access an adequately diverse diets, iron folate supplements for pregnant women have been made available in the all of above-mentioned states. The number of women initiating breastfeeding within one hour birth has dramatically risen and the like.

Indeed, to achieve the above-stated results, multi-sector nutrition activity has been playing a pivotal and irreplaceable role. So far,107,000 people have taken training on nutrition conscious farming and livestock rearing. Moreover, training on child health and nutrition has been offered to over 26,000 people.

Other activities aiming to improve the economic and nutrition status of vulnerable household have been proved effective as several thousand destitute people have managed to lead a healthier and productive life with homestead gardening, rearing of small livestock and village savings activities.

It is true that Ethiopian government has strong commitments towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. That is why it has already issued Soqota declaration to support the ongoing multi-sectoral national Nutrition Programme, led by the Deputy Prime Minister. Ministries of agriculture and natural resources, education and health as well as USAID and other development partners will for sure play their role in realizing the set goals in this regard.

In all, there is still a long way to go in terms of eradicating stunting and child malnutrition as well as improving the existing poor maternal and child feeding practices, accessing to diversified foods and quality nutrition services at national level. Furthermore, together with the nutrition activities, a lot needs to be done with regard to carrying out sustainable and coordinated interventions to improve poor household sanitation and hygiene.

Everybody has to bear in mind that the damage caused by malnutrition during first 1,000 days of life - from the start of a woman's pregnancy to the child's second birthday- is usually irreversible in terms of its negative impact on the child's health ,cognitive development,physical growth and school and work performance later in life.


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