Twenty-three-year-old Janet Akello lights up as she reaches to adjust her dress, enabling her 2-month-old baby to suckle from her breast. “My baby is healthier than my two-year-old, who I didn’t breastfeed well due to the lack of knowledge I had at the time,” she says. “I’m very glad the Nutrition Impact Positive Practice (NIPP) circle mentor mothers approached me to learn more about child nutrition when I was expecting. I have since learnt a lot of things concerning nutrition which I’m putting to good use.”
The NIPP Programme
Janet is among the mothers in her community who have recently benefited from GOAL’s NIPP circle trainings, which are implemented using a social behavioural change approach. The programme is being implemented across five sub-counties of Agago District, Northern Uganda.
The integrated four-year project, which is implemented under the One Nutrition in Complex Environment (ONCE) project, supported by Tufts University with funding from USAID’s Feed the Future programme, aims to tackle the root causes of malnutrition. This is done through selected intervention approaches facilitated by 45 volunteers, including 15 community leaders.
“I am glad to have been sensitised about nutrition. When I first gave birth to my now 2-year-old son, I didn’t know how to breastfeed him exclusively for the first six months or introduce complementary feeding after that period. Since I got the sensitisation, I’m now putting those things into practice for my two-month-old baby, who is very healthy, as you can see,” Janet says with a wide smile.
Learning about breastfeeding
Health experts say breastfeeding is one of the best defence mechanisms in the fight against child malnutrition and protection against common childhood illnesses. However, in many rural communities in Uganda, many mothers do not deliver their babies from health facilities, and therefore miss out on the vital information that is shared during Antenatal Care (ANC) visits, where advice on child and newborn nutrition is given.
According to Akullo Jane, a midwife at Kokil Health Centre in Paimol Sub County, more new mothers are now delivering their babies at health facilities due to these sensitisation sessions.
“Previously, mothers would hide when they felt pain, and this led to them delivering their babies on the way [to the hospital]. I’m glad that we have been able to discuss some of these issues in the NIPP circle sensitisations, and that we’ve seen an improvement in health facility deliveries.”
Getting involved to make a difference
Janet is currently supporting other expecting mothers using the skills she acquired from the NIPP mentor mothers. She is sharing information on nutrition best practices and infant care with her community members, including fathers.
Janet now considers diet to be one of the most important factors contributing to her family’s health. “I previously used not to take my backyard garden seriously. However, when I got the sensitisation on the need for eating a balanced diet, I have since maintained the small piece of land growing vegetables with the help of my husband,” she says with a smile.
Health workers in Paimol highly acclaim her contributions to her community, as she is effecting immense behavioural changes among them in terms of seeking vitally important mother and childcare services.
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