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close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part II - Planning nutrition action projects
close this folder Unit 4: Planning nutrition action projects
View the document Session 1: Describing the problem
View the document Session 2: Writing project goals and objectives
View the document Session 3: Choosing project activities
View the document Session 4: Developing a project work plan
View the document Session 5: Planning how to evaluate
View the document Session 6: Preparing a budget

Session 1: Describing the problem


Trainees practice analyzing and writing problem statements for their own projects.

Time: 1-2 hours


- Trainer's Reference - "Sample Problem Statements"

- Handout - Guidelines for a Problem Statement"

- Flipchart and marking pens


1. Introduction: The first step when planning a community project is to find out as much as possible about the problem your project is meant to solve. A project proposal requires a concise problem statement that describes:

- The type of nutrition problem

- Who is affected (characteristics) - How many people are affected

- What are the consequences

- What are the principal causes of the malnutrition (focus on those causes that your project will address)

- What programs are already addressing the problems described

2. Brainstorm: Ask trainees to list possible sources of information about the problem of malnutrition in their communities. They include:

- Health workers, extension workers

- National or regional nutrition surveys

- Census data

- Families of well- and malnourished children

- Community surveys

- One's own experiences and observation

- Community leaders

(If trainees conducted a community mini-survey, discuss how information from the survey might be included in a problem statement.)

3. Review two problem statements: One is clear and complete, the other vague and incomplete. (Examples attached.)

Ask participants to comment on each of the statements. Do they include the information mentioned in 1. above? If not, what information should be added?

4. Distribute the Handout - Guidelines for a Problem Statement" and review.

5. Ask trainees to write a problem statement based on a problem that their own nutrition project might address. Encourage them to be as detailed but concise as possible. (Allow 15-20 minutes.)

6. When they finish, divide the group into pairs (two persons). Each trainee reads his/her problem statement to the other. Together they check their statements and revise them to make sure they answer the following questions:

- What is the nutrition problem?

- Whom does the problem affect/how many?

- What are the consequences?

- What are the principal causes of malnutrition?

- What programs are currently addressing this problem? (Allow 15-20 minutes.)

7. Reassemble the group. Ask three or four trainees to read their statements. Trainees may wish to make suggestions for additional information that could be included in each problem statement.

8. Summarize: Review the information to be included in the problem statement. Proceed to the next session.

Note: Trainees may not have all the information they need to write a complete problem statement during the workshop. Make sure they list the information they will include in the final statement and how they plan to collect it once they return to their regions.



A Vague Problem Statement

People in the Kigondo District are very poor. Many work on plantations or in the capital city so that their families will have enough to eat. Children in the district are always small and thin because their mothers are ignorant and do not feed them properly. Last year 15 children died when measles broke out. Hygiene in the district is very poor children are always dirty because water is scarce.

A Clear Problem Statement

In the Kigondo District there are 25,000 people living in the subdistricts. The region is hilly and there is little water. Families raise sheep and goats and they grow corn during the rainy season. A study conducted by the Ministry of Health showed that 60 percent of the children under five years old in the district are malnourished - 5 percent suffer from severe malnutrition. This high level of malnutrition results in high infant mortality (180 infant deaths per 1,000 live births) and constant sickness among young children. Women also suffer from chronic anemia as a result of repeated pregnancies and inadequate diets.

Infant feeding habits and lack of food during certain times of the year are the principal causes of malnutrition in Kigondo District. All children are breastfed until at least two years of age, but it is common not to feed children foods other than breast milk until they are about one year old. Because mothers are busy tending their animals or working in the fields, families generally eat twice each day. Young children are also fed only twice each day, even though they need more frequent feeding. From May to August, families often resort to eating starchy roots to survive. This is the time just before the harvest when food stores from the last year have been finished.

There is a health center in the district and a small health post in each subdistrict. Health workers are fully occupied with diagnosis and treatment of illnesses; they have little training in health promotion. Extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture have reported some success working with mothers clubs on home gardening and nutrition. However, there are only four extension workers to serve the entire district.



When describing the problem to be addressed by your project, consider the following suggestions:

- Provide a brief discussion of the overall context of the problem.

- Focus quickly on the specific problems and needs your project will address.

- Break down a large problem into smaller needs that can be met by your project.

- Provide proof of the problem using examples, survey results, statistics and/or information gathered by observation and interviews.

- Describe problems and needs in such a way that the solutions you propose appear to be the most logical approach.