Food and behaviour-based approaches to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Community-based nutrition education programmes are a critical form of outreach in remote and resource-poor contexts. While behaviour-centred nutrition education programmes are rarely conducted solely to address a single vitamin or mineral, they can play an important and effective role as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing nutritional deficiencies.
One such model is Save the Children’s “Animadora Plus” programme, which has been extensively tested and adapted in the most food insecure sub-districts of Nampula in northern Mozambique. The programme is expanding coverage 10-fold and graduating volunteers who have maintained their roles with mothers groups. It has also held radio competitions that involve mothers in the delivery of carefully researched and locally appropriate messages about nutrition, childcare, and the work of the volunteers.
Almost one-third of the topics in which volunteers are trained are relevant to increasing the consumption and absorption of micronutrients. These include: vitamin A-rich foods, enriched porridges for infants, nutrition in pregnancy and lactation, sweet potato promotion, balanced diet, and preservation of fruits and vegetables.
As a result, chronic malnutrition decreased by five percentage points over five years from 53.2 to 48.9%, despite a severe drought in programme districts during years three and four. Furthermore, statistically significant differences were found between underweight and wasting of programme and non-programme children. This suggests that beneficiary households maintained the nutritional status of their children through the improved nutrition and health practices promoted by the programme.