Eritrea: Ministry of Agriculture – Development of roadmap and manual on SBCC in nutrition

An organism’s diet is what it eats, which is largely determined by the availability and palatability of food. For humans, healthy eating is determined by how food is prepared and the storage methods used to preserve nutrients from oxidation, heat, or leaching, and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Nutrition is a multisectoral discipline that integrates environment, food standards, trade, human well-being and education into health and agriculture programs.

Poor nutrition is a threat to health. In humans, an unhealthy diet can cause deficiency-related diseases such as blindness, anemia, scurvy, premature birth, stillbirth and cretinism, or conditions threatening health from excess nutrients such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and common chronic systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Undernutrition can lead to wasting in acute cases and stunted marasmus growth in chronic cases of malnutrition.

Breaking the vicious cycle of malnutrition by intervening during a newborn’s first 1,000 days, from conception to two years of age, is key to ensuring food and nutrition. During this time, the nutritional intake of pregnant and lactating women, infants and young children should be adjusted to the appropriate physiological needs. Failure to do so leads to malnutrition and associated complications.

Globally, 12 million children under the age of five die each year, 50% of which are due to preventable communicable diseases associated with malnutrition. In the health sector, an endemic increase in noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease as the main causes of death poses an additional challenge. Paradoxically, in many developing countries facing the problems of malnutrition due to lack of food, noncommunicable diseases are emerging.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), implemented a Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) on nutrition. The TCP project, which improves the nutritional impact of MIHAP (Minimize Integrated Household Agricultural Approach) in communities, aims to improve food and nutrition security in targeted communities through nutritional knowledge and skills, healthy complementary feeding and access to diverse nutrient-rich foods, good health and hygiene practices associated with the empowerment of rural women and capacity building of national stakeholders.

A three-day consultation workshop to develop the Communication for Social Behavior Change (SBCC), Nutrition Roadmap and Manual was held at the Asmara Palace Hotel in Asmara from September 29 to October 1 to raise awareness and bring together stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health. (MOH), Ministry of Marine Resources (MoMR), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Labor and Human Resources (MoLH), Ministry of Information ( MOI), Eritrean Standard Institution (ESI), local NGOs, NUEW and United Nations agencies, FAO, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and UNRC to share their experience and SBCC expertise.

During the consultation workshop, new ideas and practices to support families and communities and bring about favorable changes in nutrition practices within the capacity of stakeholders were shared and discussed. For an effective and sustainable SBCC strategy, the emotional, traditional and physiological factors that facilitate or hinder the desired behavior have been identified and analyzed. The consultation workshop included discussions on basic nutrition, including the dietary needs of infants and young children (AJI), pregnant and lactating mothers and those who are ill. There were discussions on behavioral challenges that need to be addressed, interim solutions to poor nutritional practices, SBCC strategies and expected outcomes. Opening remarks, opening remarks and keynote addresses were delivered by Mr. Saeed Bancie, FAO Representative in Eritrea, Mr. Arefaine Berhe, Minister of Agriculture, and Ms. Amakobe Sande, Resident Coordinator of United Nations, respectively. The general objectives of the consultation workshop were underlined by Dr Eden Tareke, consultant in nutrition followed by the progress report of the nutrition project given by Mr Amanuel Negassi, advisor and coordinator of the project. Presentations were then made by representatives of the ministries on the strategies and roles of their ministries.

On the first day, updates were given on the role of MoMR in nutrition, the role of ESI in food safety and nutrition, the role of relevant ministries in nutrition and the national briefing of the Ministry of Health (MoH) on nutrition, nutrition -sensitive agriculture, the contribution of MIHAP in the nutrition of its beneficiaries; and an introduction to SBCC, Ministry of Education strategies for awareness programs on nutrition, agriculture and health, group formation and solution to malnutrition issues were presented.

The second day, which began with a recap of the debates of the first day, continued with presentations on the role of NEUW in SBCC, the role of mass media in SBCC nutrition, the development of fishery production in regarding nutrition and the role of United Nations agencies. (UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO) in nutrition and nutrition related activities. Then, in groups, participants carried out a SWOT analysis of SBCC related to nutrition to identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to be able to define SBCC’s strategic plan.

The final day was devoted to a discussion of SBCC stakeholders, mapping roles and responsibilities in food and nutrition security, identifying common challenges and opportunities to achieve food and nutrition security, and presentations. group on the strategic plan of SBCC.

Group discussions focused on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats regarding behavior change through strategic communication to improve eating habits. Participants discussed their expertise and experience in nutrition related projects, the challenges they faced, their strengths and future plans.

Malnutrition is a disease that can be prevented through awareness programs. Awareness is a vital step in achieving optimal food and nutritional security and preventing complications from malnutrition. Awareness requires an effective and efficient communication strategy for the implementation of effective nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions to bring about the desired behavior changes in eating and nutritional habits, and workshop participants will are committed to working until the desired result is achieved.

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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