23 March 2023
Inclusive finance and economy Nutrition and health Mauritania

Mauritania: promoting optimal feeding practices to fight against child malnutrition

Projet Rim Anje : réunion d'un groupe d’apprentissage et de suivi des pratiques optimales d’alimentation du nourrisson et du jeune enfant

In Mauritania, it is estimated that one out of five children under the age of five suffers from chronic malnutrition. The persistence of non-optimal food practices is one of the causes. How can this trend be reversed over the long term? GRET is contributing to achieve this with the Rim Anje project (Promotion of optimal feeding practices for infants and young children), being conducted in the Gorgol and Brakna regions. The end of the project’s second component on 21 February 2023 provided an opportunity to take a look at the approaches taken by GRET and possible developments for the future.

Supporting and strengthening stakeholders in the Mauritanian healthcare system

To fight against chronic malnutrition in the country, the Mauritanian Ministry of Health developed a “plan to upscale optimal feeding practices for infants and young children”. GRET supported its operationalisation in 11 communes and with 30 healthcare organisations in the Gorgol and Brakna regions to strengthen stakeholders at various levels in the healthcare system. In this context, GRET trained numerous healthcare officers in feeding advice, making it possible to systematically raise women’s awareness during consultations in community-based healthcare organisations.

Acting at community level to raise populations’ awareness on good nutritional practices

For the entire duration of the project, GRET also supported and trained around one hundred community contact persons. The latter – mainly women – live in the villages covered by the project and are acknowledge by communities as being influential. They interact with pregnant and breastfeeding women in Groups for learning and monitoring optimal feeding practices for infants and young children (GASPA). To ensure even more commitment in favour of adequate nutritional practices, GRET’s teams organised regular community discussions. This made it possible to involve family members who play a role in young child feeding (husbands, grandmothers, girls…), as well as community stakeholders, such as village chiefs. 

Practices are gradually evolving

Feedback recorded during and at the end of the project points to concrete results. Aissata Ndongo, a midwife at the Mbagne healthcare centre, in the Brakna region, said: “we benefitted from a lot of training with the Rim Anje 2 project. Thanks to that and to training of the community contact persons, who raise populations’ awareness, women now come to the healthcare organisations for consultations for monitoring of pregnancy and infants. The number of home births has significantly decreased thanks to this support”. One woman who participated in a GASPA talked about the impacts the actions conducted had on children’s health: “the GASPAs enabled several children to fall ill less often, thanks to the messages conveyed by the community contact person, and also by the healthcare organisations”.

Ambitions for the future

GRET’s action is continuing and becoming more comprehensive with two new projects: Rim Health and Amal, funded respectively by Monegasque Cooperation for development and UNICEF. These projects will make it possible to consolidate GRET’s support to healthcare organisations, in order to include the subjects of mother and child health, and sexual and reproductive health. Awareness-raising messages on hygiene, access to drinking water and sanitation will be integrated at community level, and the availability of fortified foods suitable for young children will be strengthened.

On 21 February 2023 in Kaédi (capital of the Gorgol region), GRET held a workshop to present feedback on the Rim Anje 2 project. The objective was to share the project’s main achievements and results and to discuss its strong points and aspects that could be improved.

The workshop was officially launched by the governor of Gorgol and brought together some thirty participants: local authorities, the director of child health, nutrition and vaccination at the Ministry of Health, GRET’s representative in Mauritania, two UNICEF representatives, the Gorgol and Brakna regional healthcare authorities, healthcare officers and community officers who benefitted from the project, representatives from NGOs present in the project’s zone of intervention (Amsela, Azedg, Action dev, WFP, Médicos del Mundo) and a representative from the Gorgol midwives’ association.

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