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Preliminary results of the Link Nutrition Causal Analysis (NCA) conducted in Yobe, Nigeria by Action Against Hunger identified risk factors of chronic and acute under-nutrition including breastfeeding practices, inadequate access to safe drinking water and inadequate sanitation practices.
The care group model seeks to sensitize the women on these risk factors and appropriate nutrition practices to increase their awareness and support acceptance and adoption of good practices. This in turn greatly impacts the overall well-being of pregnant women and invariably, the health and well–being of their children born and unborn.
Maimuna sits at the doorstep of her house within the small surrounding fence on either sides of her. The fence, which leaves, only a small doorway path is crafted carefully with millet stalks: the thinner ones, which make up the bulk of the stalks, form the horizontal stripes while the bigger stalks stand vertically leaving space of about a metre in between entwined to give support to the smaller stalks. It is built around to form a veranda with a roof that creates a shed comfortable for small meetings on a sunny day like this one. The neighbor women have begun to gather for the meeting, which will start in a moment. Her brightly colored hijab drapes to the floor of the verandah making it impossible to see her feet. Hauwa, her one-year-old daughter seats on the mat just at her mother’s hidden feet adorned with a brightly colored red dot on her forehead and her eyebrows lined each one with a thick black line.
Maimuna holds in her hand, the material with pictures and text provided by Action against hunger for this meeting.
"I never knew anything about exclusive breastfeeding until I became a part of the care group meeting."
The care group meetings which holds once every month engages large numbers of pregnant and lactating women around several communities in Yobe state to share with them how to improve the nutritional status of their children under the age of 5 through interventions linked to prevention, detection and treatment of undernutrition.
She holds out the book so that the pictures can clearly be seen by the other women seated on the mat provided in a circle each with a baby below 2 years of age.
They soon break into a chorus in response to the call- a song on hygiene raised by Maimuna in their native language clapping excitedly. As the care group leader, It is Maimuna’s duty to gather the fifteen women around her neighbourhood monthly to discuss/share with them good practices on hygiene, childcare and nutrition.
The mother of eight is now passing down the knowledge learnt and she has practiced exclusive breastfeeding on her now 1-year-old daughter Hauwa, whose clap is out of rhythm as she tries to imitate the older women.
Her husband Ahmadu Yaro, on return from his work of splitting firewood for households around the community, settles down to say he is impressed with his wife’s enthusiasm towards the success of the care group. “She visits the women from house to house and supports them with issues surrounding health, children and nutrition.” he says.
"She has opportunity to enlighten others, explaining difficult issues to them."
Working as a volunteer, he says, has improved his wife’s interaction with the society, he says with his face lined with pride. “Her personal hygiene in the home has tremendously improved as well”
Habiba Sani, who has been a member of the care group meetings for about a year narrates “through the care group meetings, I learnt not to give my new born water but instead to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months” she says while rocking gently her 1 month old baby. She has learnt about washing her hands at the five critical times and keeping her house clean always.
“Maimuna’s brain is very sharp; she goes for her meeting, comes back and remembers to tell us all she has learnt” says Maryam Mohammed, the 27 year old mother of 4 who is grateful to have learnt dietary diversity- different types of food to eat and their benefit.
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