Women's Listening Group (photo courtesy of NFNC)
I've just returned from another great visit to Zambia. While there I met with the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC), our main partner in the 1000 Days of Motherhood initiative in Zambia. It’s always a pleasure to meet with them as their team is deeply committed to this initiative and reducing childhood stunting and under-nutrition in Zambia.
The 1000 Days of Motherhood initiative and the Bushes that Grow programming has been as deemed as making an important impacts in mitigating stunting (low height-for-weight), although no formal evaluations have yet been completed. As we noted previously, the early reports are highly encouraging, but it’s still too soon to undertake a formal evaluation. Ancedotal evidence strongly indicates that the women’s listening group format is working well, especially where the Lifeplayer units have been deployed.
As a result, NFNC is expanding into the Eastern Province. This is great news.
The Eastern Province, which borders Mozambique and Malawi has some of the highest rates of stunting, not just in Zambia, but in the world. It also has some of the lowest literacy in the country, with female literacy as low as 80% in a few districts. (We think there’s a link between the education of women and the health of their children.)
An estimated 85% of the population is engaged in small-scale farming and seasonal food production. Families survive on diets that are deficient in a number of important nutrients. As we have noted before, children who suffer chronic malnutrition in the first 1000 days from conception experience irreversible brain and cognitive development as well as stunting.
The latest consignment of Lifeplayers will be placed initially in two districts in the province and women’s listening groups will be formed. The second phase of the Bushes that Grow content will be also be loaded on to the Lifeplayers. The NFNC have again used nutrition and health experts to provide the content and they have listened to what mothers said they have wanted – more practical information on how to grow certain foods, how and when to plant, as well as step-by-step easy recipes.
To further strengthen the project, we've connected NFNC to our friends at COMACO who work with small-scale farmers and already have listening groups established. We know they’ll benefit from COMACO farming content as well.
Lifeline is not only excited about the initiative expanding further into Zambia, but we would be even more delighted if our two partners could work together.