Niger. Community mobilizers on the front lines against Child Malnutrition
29-05-2024 | di COOPI

Niger. Community mobilizers on the front lines against Child Malnutrition

In Ouallam, in the Tillaberi region, community agents play a key role in the fight against child malnutrition. It is precisely in Ouallam that COOPI-International Cooperation works in the four Integrated Health Centers in the area as a member of the project “IMPROVE OUR LIVES! Building Sustainable Resilience to Food and Nutrition Insecurity and Social Cohesion in Rural Communities of Burkina Faso and Niger” implemented in consortium with Progettomondo with funds from the European Union, which started in June 2020 and has a duration of 4 years.

The project, aimed at improving the livelihoods of the rural community by strengthening resilience to food insecurity in 17 communes in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, has seen the project team and the health district team engaged in training activities that have benefited numerous community mobilizers, staff who are not part of the official health system organization chart but who are of crucial importance in identifying cases of malnutrition in local villages and conducting community interviews.

The mobilizers have received several training sessions acquiring crucial skills to address issues of malnutrition and maternal and child health. We collected testimonies from some of them.

Thanks to the trainings we received, we can now train the beneficiaries in turn. We are the intermediaries between the Health Centers and the population.”

These are the words of Hamidou Seydou, community mobilizer in Sargane.

The trainings enabled the mobilizers to conduct talks and awareness sessions in direct contact with the community on issues related to malnutrition, screening, exclusive breastfeeding, the importance of monitoring pregnancy at the health center, the use of the brachial perimeter, and nutritious foods to supplement breast milk.

We place special emphasis on malnutrition and its consequences for children's growth and health, promote complementary feeding from six months of age, and encourage pregnant women not to miss interviews.”

This is what Indou Sidi, one of the community mobilizers in the Ouallam department, tells us.

Community mobilizers/animators were also taught how to set up specific Groups for learning and monitoring infant and young child feeding practices, knowledge that then enabled the formation of 3 groups: that of pregnant women, that of women with babies from 0 to 6 months, and that of women breastfeeding babies from 6 to 23 months. 

I raise awareness among pregnant women on the importance of monitoring pregnancy at the health center, women breastfeeding from 0 to 6 months on the importance of mother-child breastfeeding screening, and those breastfeeding after 6 months on the importance of complementary feeding,”

reports Oumoulkhair Hassan, community mobilizer in Donko Koira, also in Ouallam Health District.

Through the activities carried out by the community mobilizers, the beneficiaries gain awareness about the importance of providing children with adequate and sufficient nutrition to combat malnutrition:

The beneficiaries are now more aware than ever of the problem of malnutrition, improve their hygiene, and keep an eye on their children's growth. They actively participate in screening children and monitoring the treatment of children receiving care.”

Indou Sidi tells us.

Now cases of malnutrition have become rare, thanks to the awareness that volunteer facilitators are raising on hygiene, complementary feeding and breastfeeding. We use an early screening strategy, which allows early detection of malnutrition status to intervene early and prevent complications.”

explains Soumana Issaka, focal point for nutrition and health worker at the Center in Ouallam.

Screening children

COOPI has been working in Niger since 2012, implementing projects in the fields of primary health, disaster risk reduction, mental health, psychosocial support, protection and education in emergency situations. The food security sector is one of the main areas of intervention for COOPI in the country, which has an established expertise especially in the Tillabery region. In particular, COOPI implements programs to combat malnutrition by working with local health facilities to provide assistance to children-especially in the most vulnerable age groups-and pregnant women. It also conducts awareness campaigns in communities on proper food and nutrition practices.