|Essays on Food, Hunger, Nutrition, Primary Health Care and Development (AVIVA, 480 p.)|
|27. On Behalf of the African Child: Challenges and Windows of Opportunity for the Donor Community.*|
Breast feeding promotion/Emphasis on improving weaning practices/Role of women in health and nutrition/Women's workload and time constraints/Daycare/Strong kinship (role of extended families)/Child caring capacity/New emphasis on the consumption of native foods.
4. AN ENHANCED ROLE FOR THE CARING OF CHILDREN
Nineteen of the 31 country papers reviewed (Congo, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone prominently so) retained strong wording In their plans to be applied during the Decade for the promotion of breastfeeding. Seventeen countries (Malawi, Sierra Leone and Tanzania prominently so) forcefully highlighted the need to focus more on helping women better assume their crucial role in preserving the health and nutrition of their off springs. Nine countries (Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania prominently so) depicted the African extended family system as an asset to build-on to improve the caring for children while only 3 countries (Benin, Sierra Leone and Zaire) thought more use of traditional, native foods should be made in the battle against malnutrition.
It is by now clear that, in some circumstances, even in Africa, household food insecurity is not the main constraint to good health and nutrition of children in the family. The caring dimension in the prevention of ill-health and malnutrition has been rightly highlighted - both in the presence or absence of household food insecurity - as an area were much can be improved in the years to come.
In Africa, breastfeeding is fortunately still the rule, being practised at least during a good part of the first year of life. But there is little reason to believe that the continent will be spared the move away from breastfeeding that comes with modernization. For this reason, plus the still burning need of intervening to assure safe and timely weaning practices, donor help should continue to be channelled, in part, to this priority promotive activity. Not doing it, risks shifting the ages of malnutrition downwards with catastrophic consequences on child survival and child development.
The role of mothers in caring for their off springs is seriously eroded by time-consuming daily chores that keep them away from their young children, as well as by their level of understanding of child-care instructions received. Not surprisingly, malnutrition of underfives is the outcome. Also in this domain, donors will find tapped or untapped windows of opportunity for contributing to ongoing efforts benefiting the African Child: from literacy programs for women and girls, to the training of 10-15 year-old girls on child-care practices, to the running of daycare facilities, to educational campaigns geared at promoting FADU(#) feeding behaviors, to the availing to mothers appropriate weaning foods. Simply put, the message is clear: "Love is not enough" for successful child rearing!
Finally, the resurrection of a number of native African foods - whose consumption has been abandoned over the years for a host of "modern", often imported foods - is indeed another area deserving donor investment, especially in close collaboration with communities directly.
NGOs can and should more often be brought in to become partners in boosting all these activities. Donor inputs can be crucial in making these partnerships flourish this Decade.
(#): F: feeding frequency; A: amount to be fed; D: nutrient density; U: nutrient utilization.