Empowering Communities to Take Action for Improved Child Nutrition

Tuesday, July 30, 2019
GSAN members prepare enriched porridge during community cooking demonstration in Bougoula. All materials were resourced from the community and by the GSAN.
Photo: Save the Children

Community nutrition groups bring together mothers, fathers and caregivers who support one another with infant and young child feeding practices

In Mali, almost 27% of children under five are stunted.  The prevalence of global acute malnutrition is 9 % and the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition is 3% (2018 Demographic Health Survey). The government of Mali is committed to addressing malnutrition countrywide.  The USAID-funded High Impact Health Services Project (SSGI) supports the government of Mali’s actions through furthering the delivery of health facility-and community-based nutrition services that aim to reduce underweight, stunting, wasting, and iron deficiency anemia.  SSGI interventions are aligned with the first 1,000 days approach, which corresponds to a window of opportunity to prevent malnutrition for mothers and children ranging from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday.

In 2017, SSGI created or revitalized 60 community nutrition groups, locally known as “GSAN” in the health district of Kolondieba.  One such GSAN in the village of Bougoula has helped to improve infant and youth child feeding in the community.  During training sessions, GSANs reviewed infant and young child feeding recommendations, how to mobilize community members to partake in GSAN meetings and how to negotiate for the adoption of recommended practices with their peers.

The guidelines enabled the Bougoula GSAN to carry out nutritional demonstration activities and community wide discussions on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding of children 6-23 months old.  Members also conducted household visits to counsel and encourage families to take acutely malnourished children to health centers for treatment.  The USAID/SSGI community counselor gave the Bougoula GSAN the necessary tools to record all group activities, monitor their progress and evaluate where they needed more support.

“We were very excited to refresh ourselves on what we had learned a few years ago (by another project) about the importance of infant and young child nutrition,” the Bougoula GSAN President Aminata KONE exclaimed. “On top of reviewing lessons previously learned, we now have a better grip on how to keep our group active and engaged with the monitoring sheets provided by USAID/SSGI.”

We now have a better grip on how to keep our group active and engaged with the monitoring sheets provided by USAID/SSGI - Aminata KONE, Bougoula GSAN President

One challenge that emerged during GSAN meeting discussions was the difficulty in procuring supplies for cooking demonstrations.  Although the heads of household vowed to contribute corn, peanuts and beans, their support was not systematic and GSANs often did not have enough supplies, including cooking pots and utensils, for these community-wide events.  The community counselor of SSGI’s local NGO partner organized exchange meetings with GSAN members to find ways to mobilize resources for the supplies needed for cooking demonstrations.

As a result, members decided to create a fund where families with children contribute $0.05 per month.  In three months from October to December 2018, the GSAN raised $70 in addition to 250 kg of cereal donation.  With money raised, the GSAN was able to conduct 16 nutrition demonstrations coupled with malnutrition screening, where 21 malnutrition cases were detected in November-December 2018 compared to 52 cases in July-August 2018.   From January to March the GSAN mobilized an additional $163 and conducted 11 nutrition demonstrations coupled with malnutrition screening.  At the end of March 2019, no child was screened malnourished in the village of Bougoula confirming the positive outcome of GSAN activities. 

“It’s exciting that our hard work in making our community healthier is paying off and we can see that in the numbers!” said the GSAN President proudly.  According to Kadiatou Kone, mother to a 22 month old girl in Bougoula village, "since the GSAN was revitalized in June 2017, we have been holding regular nutrition demonstrations and educational talks on infant and young child nutrition.  I prepare the recipes I learn during the demonstrations at home to feed my children.  As you can see, my child is healthy because his tape is green and not red!  I am motivated to advise other mom’s to adopt these good practices!”

Since 2015, the SSGI project has supported the creation of 950 community-based nutrition groups/GSANs in the regions of Kayes, Sikasso and Koulikoro. Through these groups, community members are empowered to take action for improved child nutrition. 

Last updated: May 14, 2020

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