"Desta" for Complete Growth of Children – AllAfrica.com

by Zelalem

Before Fatuma Seid demonstrates the feeding of porridge made of sorghum to her child in front of a public gathered in Kombolcha town, Amhara Regional State, she was already selected by health extension workers in the South Wollo region as one of the model mothers who want to have a positive impact on the future of their children.

A mother of three and a housewife, Fatuma has been struggling to find the right food formula for her children. Her children have been fed different types of food, but nevertheless, they can never escape the stunting. Now, she has realized that the nutritional value of the food she offers her children really matters. Having been trained by the health extension workers in the South Wollo region, she has been feeding her children food that contains vitamins, proteins, minerals and carbohydrates.

Until the non-governmental organization Concern Ethiopia introduced Desta, a micronutrient product and a supplementary nutrient, many of those model mothers had no idea about what it is. The cooperation between Concern Ethiopia, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Bahir Dar University, brought to fruition Desta (meaning “joy” in English). According to Endalamaw Belay, North Ethiopia office head of Concern Ethiopia, the realization of Desta is an answer to major concerns for the children in the region who suffer due to the highest level of stunting cases in Ethiopia, at both the national and regional level. He estimated the 2011 stunting rate of the region to be 52 percent of the nationwide rate; almost half of the figure was registered in the Wollo region.

“This is quite the irony that the leading food producers are the most malnourished people,” he said. According to him, the Amhara Regional State accounts for 30 percent of food production in the country.

This project aims to curb stunting and infant death by reducing anemia. It intends to reach out to 60,000-90,000 children in the 11 woredas in Amhara and Tigray, which are the most vulnerable regions to stunting.

“We are paving the way for future micronutrient production and supplementary food production for children,” Alem Adera, country representative of GAIN said.

The efforts of GAIN have already been impacting the country’s food preparation and eating culture. “In Ethiopia, the reality in poor nutrition stretches from the poorest households to the rich ones,” he said. Explaining his argument Alem, states that the rich eat beef with injera daily while the poor have shiro (a stew made primarily with powdered chickpea or broad bean) with injera.

Despite the promising economic growth in the country, nutrition is still a problem that needs to be tackled, according to Tilahun Teka (Prof.), project manager at GAIN. He said that the traditional food fed to infants and children in Ethiopia is a deep-rooted problem and so, GAIN and other organizations struggled to come up with Desta. According to him, before creating Desta, high-scale research was conducted in the region.

“We carried out a landmark research to find out what holds back children from complete growth and finally we made Desta,” Seifu Hagos, researcher and nutritionist at Addis Ababa University School of public health said.

Desta will be distributing for free in those 11 woredas as a pilot project before possible expansion throughout the country.

The introduction of Desta is expected to provide a lot to mothers and their children and it is anticipated to curb stunting. In fact, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Ethiopia’s performance in reducing stunting is impressive and it is on the right track towards reducing stunting and anemia.

“Ethiopia is close to be on the track for reducing anemia and stunting, while many African countries of sub Saharan Africa are off track on that,” Lawrence Haddad senior research fellow of IFPRI said at the launching of the 2014 Global Nutrition Report for Ethiopia.

According to the report, with significant improvement in nutrition, infant mortality has declined from 90/1000 live births in 2000 to 47/1000 in 2013. Under five mortality is also declined from 146/1000 to 68 in the stated period.

Ethiopia has high levels of commitment to reduce malnutrition, as indicated by its membership of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement and the government meeting its Nutrition For Growth (N4G) pledges, the report said.

The country has wide geographic and direct coverage of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) treatment at 80 percent, and only two countries with stunting rates as high as Ethiopia have faster rates of decline in stunting, it said.

But there are challenges, nutrition-specific interventions, such as exclusive breastfeeding rates, are low, as are underlying determinants of malnutrition, particularly female secondary education rates.

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