Monrovia — The Liberia WASH Consortium has launched a multi-sectoral response nutrition project that seeks to improve nutritional status of children under five years of age in rural Montserrado and Grand Bassa Counties.
The program according to the Chargé d'Affaires, of the Embassy of Ireland in Liberia, Madam Kate O' Donnell will be implemented through a multi-annual partnership between Irish Aid, and the Liberia WASH Consortium, with an anticipated investment of €4.25 Million over a period of four years (up to 2024).
"This project is very timely and relevant. Globally, in our International Development Policy (A Better World), Ireland recognizes the importance of tackling Hunger, Food Security and Improving Nutrition - contributing to the SDG Goal 2. Ireland supports global initiatives for Scaling-up Nutrition, and REACH (for accelerating the Scale up of Food and Nutrition actions," stressed Amb. O'Donnell.
She recounted at the launch of the project in Monrovia recently that "back in March this year, some of you may recall that we had the Liberia launch of the Global Hunger Index, which provided a snapshot of the current situation in Liberia and showed the trends over time - with some areas showing progress, but still indicating that we have a long way to go."
Referencing "Under Five mortality" as per the Index, O' Donnell stressed that the rate has declined from almost 20 percent in 2000, but it is still very high at seven percent.
Amb. O'Donnell noted that in Liberia, Ireland is implementing a five-year strategy, which strongly supports gender equality, and addresses improved nutrition, and is aligned to the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
She asserted that the first pillar of the PAPD, "Power to the People," identifies reduction in under five malnutrition as being one key to important health, education and economic benefits.
"We recognize that food and nutrition security is a multi-sectoral issue, which requires good institutional coordination and clear leadership to deliver on food and nutrition security objectives," She said.
The Irish Diplomat maintained that one of the areas where "we see potential is in the terms of finalization and implementation of a Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy and Plan.
"Currently Ireland is supporting UNICEF contributing to a three-year program Working to Improve Nutrition at Scale (WiNS), which works in all counties, and is largely focusing on adolescent nutrition - addressing provision of services, demand for services and supporting an enabling environment for nutrition," she noted.
"Under Nutrition we have a specific component to support innovative approaches for household food and nutrition security," She disclosed.
She pointed out that the approach taken is evidence-based - building on evidence, trying out approaches, and generating learning.
Amb. O'Donnell emphasized "that for this project we are delighted to be working again with the Liberia WASH Consortium - being implemented by Action Against Hunger, Concern Worldwide and Wateraid with Action Against Hunger coordinating.
"This consortium is an approach that brings together a range of expertise under a common approach. The consortium has already achieved a lot in the past, and has capacity for reflection and learning as it embarks on the next phase of implementation," she stated adding that "this capacity to learn and adapt is key to making progress."
She cited that the consortium also evolved from research undertaken to understand the factors leading to malnutrition and stunting in a number of livelihood zones in Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Rural Montserrado, Rivercess, and Sinoe Counties.
"This research included a Cost of the Diet assessment which explored the acceptability and economic feasibility of identified options to improve the consumption of nutritiously diverse food in the livelihood zones," she indicated.
Amb. O'Donnell noted that there was a Link Nutrition Causal Analysis study which identified the three major risk factors as: low access to water, non-optimal sanitation practices, and low access to food (including limited access to markets).
She stated that there was also a Barrier Analysis study which looked at six key behaviors (Exclusive Breast Feeding, Minimum Dietary Diversity, Hand washing, Use of modern Family Planning, Latrine Use, and Safe Water Storage) to understand what barriers needed to be overcome to adopt such behaviors.
"The recommendations from the Cost of Diet assessment, along with the results of the Nutrition Causal Analysis and Barrier Analysis, were used to inform the development of a social behavior change communication (SBCC) framework and strategy," she disclosed, adding, "This evidence-based program design is being piloted in two counties."
According to her, the program provides an opportunity for the consortium to engage with key stakeholders, to share learning, to support policy development and to achieve results in improving the nutritional status of children in the pilot areas.