When it comes to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ,unlike many Sub Saharan countries, Ethiopia has a number of success stories particularly in reducing maternal and child mortality rate. This is because, for more than one and a half decade, the Ethiopian government together with the international development partners has been aggressively working to address the underlying causes of maternal and child mortality in the country.
At this juncture, almost all mothers are getting prenatal and neonatal health-care services in all corners of the country than ever before. Moreover, during the past two decades, the national vaccination coverage has been increasing tremendously.
Apart from working to reduce maternal and child mortality, the nation has been busy improving the national nutrition status. For instance, over the last five years, stunting has significantly been reduced at national level. Thanks to the nutrition programme known as Empowering New Generations to Improve Nutrition and Economic Opportunities (ENGINE), the nationwide maternal and children nutrition has been improved.
According to Ministry of Health, five to six million mothers and children living in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and SNNP states have become beneficiaries of ENGINE as they have successfully prevented chronic children malnutrition during the first 1,000 days- from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday.
During those first 1,000 days, thousands of household have been made to access an adequately diverse diets, iron folate supplements for pregnant women have been made available in the all of above- mentioned states. The number of women initiating breastfeeding within one hour birth has dramatically risen and the like.
Indeed, to achieve the above- stated results , multi-sector nutrition activity has been playing a pivotal and irreplaceable role. So far, 107,000 people have taken training on nutrition conscious farming and livestock rearing. Moreover, training on child health and nutrition has been offered to over 26,000 people.
Other activities aiming to improve the economic and nutrition status of vulnerable household have been proved effective as several thousand destitute people have managed to lead a healthier and productive life with homestead gardening, rearing of small livestock and village savings activities.
In fact, replacing ENGINE, a new nutrition programme ‘Growth through Nutrition have been launched. The programme will be running till 2021. Hopefully, the Ethiopian government and Save the Children has been implementing this new programme in a successful and timely manner.
It is true that Ethiopian government has strong commitments towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. That is why it has already issued Soqota Declaration to support the ongoing multi- sectoral national Nutrition Programme, led by the Deputy Prime Minister. Ministries of agriculture and natural resources, education and health as well as USAID and other development partners will for sure play their role in realizing the set goals in this regard.
In summing up, there is still a long way to go in terms of eradicating stunting and child malnutrition as well as improving the existing poor maternal and child feeding practices, accessing to diversified foods and quality nutrition services at national level. Furthermore, together with the nutrition activities, a lot needs to be done with regard to carrying out sustainable and coordinated interventions to improve poor household sanitation and hygiene.
Everybody has to bear in mind that the damage caused by malnutrition during first 1,000 days of life – from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday- is usually irreversible in terms of its negative impact on the child’s health ,cognitive development, physical growth, school and work performance later in life.
Therefore, as the issue of nutrition is about the healthy, efficient and productive citizens creating nutrition conscious society is not the merely assignment of an entity rather it needs integrated approach and engagement.
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