By Alex Luwagga, Nutrition Project Assistant, KRC
Kabarole Research and Resource Centre and Save the Children International are partnering to implement the Maternal Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) program targeting Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLW) and children aged 6 to 23 months. The program also ensures provision of quality treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) through a Targeted Supplementary Feeding Program (TSFP) with focus on Children 6- 59 Months and PLW with MAM.
In order to reach a bigger population with optimal health and nutrition messages, the project leverages on an MCHN plus methodology of community engagement through a care group approach where community volunteers are selected by the community members and each of the selected volunteer is trained by the nutrition and health technical team on health and nutrition modules/concepts. The volunteer then cascades the same knowledge learnt to his/her 10-15 neighbours (neighbour men and neighbour women) and continuously follows them up to ensure adoption of optimal health and nutrition practices.
Learning from experience, and as dictated by cultural gender biases, women and girls shoulder the greater burden of care in their households compared to men and boys. Based on this appreciation, KRC intentionally engages men as lead fathers in the care group approach since men are the main decision makers in households. A wife might have the health and nutritional knowledge such as eating 3 classes of foods (energy, grow, and grow foods) and planning for the family, but she might fail to convince her husband from implementing the desired behaviors. To break such bottlenecks, a man could easily be influenced by fellow men to practice a desired health and nutritional behavior than his wife. This is why care groups in Byabakora also include men as lead fathers and neighbour men.
So far 12 lead fathers in Byabakora zone have been trained on health and nutrition models as lead fathers through the care group approach and they have started cascading the learnt knowledge to their fellow neighbour men. The 12 have reported reaching out to 180 neighbour men on ideal health and nutrition concepts and optimal Water Sanitation and Hygiene practices at households of the neighbour men. This has been done through neighbour circle care group meetings with men. The neighbour men are also advised to not only promote the desired practices within care groups but also to other community members not in care groups.
Three neighbour men revealed that they could easily listen to men empowering them with knowledge on desired health and nutrition practices than a woman because they respect information from men than the women. Another neighbour man said that from the neighbour group meeting with the lead father, he learnt the importance of having a dry rack, rubbish pit, and a toilet and hence he established them at his household. It was also learnt that men always attend neighbour group meetings with their lead fathers to listen to the knowledge they are sharing with them which proves that they are interested from learning from fellow men.
KRC believes that involving lead fathers and neighbour men in promoting optimal WASH practices in care groups will lead to transition of the community from relief nutrition assistance to self-reliance.