| Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival |
|Part I - Community nutrition problems and interventions|
|Unit 4: Introducing weaning practices in the community|
Trainees will review a description of Thailand's village weaning food and nutrition education projects. They will also discuss whether this type of community self-help activity would be appropriate in their regions.
Time: 1 1/2 hours
- Flipchart and marking pens
- Handout - "Case Study: Village Weaning Food Projects in Thailand"
1. Introduce the session by explaining that villagers can improve weaning practices and child nutrition if they work together. During this session, participants will read a case study about community weaning food projects in Thailand.
2. Distribute the case study, and ask participants to read it silently.
3. Write the discussion questions on the flipchart, and work with participants to answer each of the questions.
Divide into small groups, asking the groups to write and present their answers to the discussion questions.
4. Summarize the session by pointing out that projects of this type require:
- commitment by the village;
- training for villagers in techniques of food production; nutrition education and financial management;
- careful selection of grinders and other utensils;
- quality control and adequate hygiene to make sure that weaning foods are not contaminated;
- on-going technical advice and assistance.
CASE STUDY: VILLAGE WEANING FOOD PROJECT IN THAILAND
Preparation of special foods for children during the weaning period (six months - two years) takes extra time and effort. In many countries, women are responsible for working in the fields, fetching water, collecting firewood, preparing food for the family and caring for small children. They often do not have time to make special meals for their young children.
In this case study, we will learn about several different programs in Thailand that are addressing the problem of malnutrition in weaning-age children. There are over 100 villages in different parts of Thailand with the type of self-help project described below.
Thailand is a rural country of over 47 million people. Agriculture is the main source of income in rural villages, and rice is the main crop and the staple of the Thai diet. It is estimated that over two-thirds of Thailand's infants and pre-school children are affected by malnutrition.
Several years ago, a number of organizations in Thailand began working with rural villages to improve the nutrition and health of their children. Most of the villages involved were first visited by motivation teams responsible for promoting cooperative village action. These teams emphasized self-reliance and used games and discussions to learn more about village problems and "felt needs. " They also presented information to the villages about appropriate health and nutrition technologies and low cost food production.
As a result of the work of the motivators, many of the villages formed cooperatives or committees responsible for village health and nutrition activities. In most cases, cooperatives collect a small contribution from each cooperative member to start a revolving community health fund for village projects.
Cooperatives select nutrition and health volunteers who receive training from a district health team. Village volunteers then become responsible for monthly weighing of all children under three years old in the village and for nutrition education with mothers and school children. Growth cards are given to all mothers for children under three years old in most of these villages.
Village nutrition cooperatives are also introducing improved weaning foods as well as foods for the treatment of malnourished children. Different mixtures of rice, legumes and seeds or nuts are produced, packaged and distributed by the village cooperatives using local ingredients and appropriate village technology.
Members of the nutrition cooperatives generally take turns preparing the improved weaning foods. The ingredients are first cleaned; then legumes, seeds and nuts are roasted until they are fully cooked. Rice is heated for only a few minutes to kill harmful bacteria. After roasting, the weaning mixtures for young children are ground to a fine flour. For older children, mixtures are ground to a coarse flour, or they are left in their original form. Because the ingredients are roasted, the amount of time required for cooking the weaning mixtures is reduced.
Village nutrition cooperatives use utensils commonly found in the village as well as appropriate, low-cost grinders and roasters to make the improved weaning foods. Several different types of grinder are being used depending on the resources of the program and the availability of electricity. These include the common village grinding stone, the hand grinder and a low-cost electric grinder.
Families with malnourished children are assisted by the village nutrition cooperatives and their weaning food projects. If a child is suffering from severe malnutrition, weaning mixtures are given to the family at no cost. In cases of mild and moderate malnutrition, a reduced price may be charged, or raw foods may be traded for the packaged weaning foods.
The sale of weaning foods to families in their own and other nearby villages is another goal. The prices charged to the families of healthy children vary from village to village. Unfortunately, few villages keep detailed records of their expenses and sales, so it is difficult to know if cooperatives are making a profit from this activity. Income from the sale of weaning foods is reinvested in producing more of the same. Excess profit can be used by the cooperatives for projects they decide to carry out to improve the health of their villages.
Because these village projects are relatively new, it is too early to evaluate their impact. We know that villages have responded enthusiastically to the program and, in several of the first villages to establish health/nutrition cooperatives, there are reports that severe malnutrition has been eliminated.
Questions for Discussion
1. What is the problem the rural villages in Thailand are working together to solve?
2. What have the villagers done to solve this problem? List their activities.
3. What resources did the villagers need to carry out their activities? (Remember resources are people, materials, equipment, interest, money, etc.)
4. Would this type of project be feasible in the communities you work with now? Why or why not?