Child nutrition deficiency can undermine the future of a Community –Part 2

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????By Kennedy Phiri, Edited by Asunta Simoloka

This is part two of a three part series analyzing the challenges surrounding child malnutrition in Zambia and other developing countries.  How can the bottom-up approach offer a meaningful and lasting solution to child malnutrition?

Freedom from hunger and malnutrition is a declared basic human right  in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights ‘’Everyone has their right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food’’.

Meanwhile, nutritional and healthy deprivation in a society manifests at various levels; household and community to national or international. The day to day decisions made at personal, household, community and national levels may have a very direct effect, positively or negatively, on nutritional and healthy well being of children.

However, in attempts to device suitable measures and strategies suiting to eliminating the nutritional deficiency in children, individuals (person or household), and communities must make informed decisive steps of assessing the problem (and accepting, if the problem exists), analysing its causes and taking actions/measures to overcome the identified causes (primary and secondary).

The interaction of influence of individual household and community (and consequently national) decisions to overcome nutritional and health challenges in children is based on cycle interaction, where individual day to day decisions have a huge bearing on the community day to day decisions and vice verse.

Therefore, in any programme development effort to improve nutrition, it is important to acknowledge the processes, identify them and learn how they function to be able to design actions to support and accelerate the most promising. However, it should be mentioned that parents (Household – direct otherwise) have a direct responsibility for assessing the growth of children and supported by their community, while ministries responsible for child nutrition may assess nutritional trends from basic indicators such as goitre prevalence etc.

In order for parents to undertake household assessments of their children and be able to determine whether a child is nutrition deprived requires community awareness and community-parent commitment.

A well developed awareness on assessment easily overcomes issues of household perception of nutrition deficiency as a problem; uncommonly, some households have come to accept presence of malnutrition as a normal children’s growth process. It s very important that the awareness programs are designed around community needs, resources, capacities and capabilities and acceptance.

Most community awareness programs have tended to be general in nature and far distant from family social/economic dynamics; this can generally be attributed to the processes used to generate these programs which are usually top down tier, where through survey and other scientific/social tools, government assess the nutritional needs of children across the country and develop strategic policies to mitigate, the policies are broken down into implementable programs targeting communities and individuals.

While to some extent, these programs have succeeded to reduce levels of nutritional deprivation in children, much more could be achieved by use of down-top approach, where communities at household levels are supported to identifying causes of nutritional deficiencies and how to overcome them.

Top-down approach has a potential of creating a household dependence syndrome, where parents have sat back and waited for government to directly provide household solutions to nutritional needs; a solution that could be unsustainable in developing countries like Zambia.  Household food security which meets children’s nutritional needs requires special attention. It is easy to mistakenly equate nutrition with national food supply, ignoring the factor of accessibility.

Child Nutritional programs should attempt to focus most of its resources at household food security by improving and providing attainable alternatives on family capacities to produce and acquire food. Improving family capacities to produce and acquire food in rural areas could go a long way in improving both household food security and child nutrition levels.

Accessible waterAn Example:  A community (village) of 20 household in Kaputa, Inkelenge, Mwemba, Chadiza, Katuba, Mwansabombwe, Chibombo, etc. can be organised in groups growing different foods necessary to adequately meet children’s nutritional needs. Inadequate access to water is a huge recognisable factor in the provision of adequate nutrition to children.

However, it is important to learn from people that have lived in deserts, where access to water mostly is not in any way easier compared to Zambia. Zambia has adequate water, and communities and families can improve capacities to access ground clean water instead of the shallow wells and streams that mostly provide unclean water.

Do not miss part three where an affordable food that can help curb childhood malnutrition will be profiled.