By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Benue State Government, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, recently took up the challenge of saving over two million infants and young children from avoidable death across the state.

Also to benefit from the initiative against avoidable death in the state are over one and half million women and nursing mothers in the state.

The new strategy is anchored on community health workers and councillors who were trained and in turn trained five care-givers in each of the 23 local government areas of the state. These were then sent into the various rural and urban communities to further train and enlighten nursing mothers and women in the coming two months on necessary health tips for healthy living and child survival.

Aside being anchored on strategic training and enlightenment on improved infant and young child feeding, beneficiaries who are mostly domiciled in the villages and hamlets of Benue State, would also be availed comprehensive details on immunization and safe motherhood.

Speaking to Vanguard Metro, VM, on the renewed strategy, the Director of Public Health at the Benue State Ministry of Health, Dr. Joseph Kumba, said the new initiative would further deepen safe motherhood practices in the state and by extension save millions of lives.

*Some of the counsellors undergoing training for the assignment ahead

Dr. Kumba said the Ministry has deployed all necessary machinery to unsure that the programme turns out to be a huge success in all parts of the state. “We are closely monitoring the process in order to ensure that the entire State is covered in the exercise so that the benefits would be far-reaching and in consonance with set target,” he said.

Kumba added that at the end of the day, millions of children, women and nursing mothers would enjoy the benefits of the new initiative.

In her comment, the Benue State Coordinator of Baby Friendly Initiative, BFI, Mrs. Catherine Anger, disclosed that the training would also dwell on the need for exclusive breast feeding and timely and appropriate compulsory feeding for infants and young children.

Anger lamented that before now in many communities, infants and young children feeding practices remain far from satisfactory. She added that the new approach would be far-reaching, stressing that it would go a long way to stem deaths associated with malnutrition and wrongful feeding of babies and young children at the early stage of their lives.

According to her: “Accelerating interventions aimed at improving infant and young child feeding, IYCF, at community level is a key priority in the effort to improve survival, growth, and development of children with equity.

“However, in many communities IYCF practices remain far from optimal. Care-givers often lack the practical support, one-to-one counselling and correct information.

“In fact, this time  we are taking the fight against childhood killers diseases to another level and we strongly believe that at the end of the exercise we will be singing a new song because we expect a drastic drop in infant mortality”.

In her comment, the Nutritional Focal Person for Ado Local Government, Mrs.  Enotse Ogbu, noted that with the new approach, which is aimed at stemming child mortality in the state, the requisite training counselling of all those involved in the campaign would be comprehensive and far- reaching.

According to her: “The master trainers had trained zonally and it has been cascaded to the Nutrinioal Focal Persons who have now gone down to train community workers who have in turn moved into the various communities to take the campaign farther”. She did not stop there.

“UNICEF recently developed a new set of generic tools for programming and capacity development on community-based Infant and Young Child Feeding Counselling. It is aimed for use in diverse country contexts, the package of tools guides local adaptation, design, planning and implementation of community- based IYCF counselling and support services.

“ It also contains training tools to equip community workers, using an interactive and experiential adult learning approach, with relevant knowledge and skills on the recommended breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices for children from 0 up to 24 months, enhance their counselling, problem solving, negotiation and communication skills, and prepare them to effectively use the related counselling tools and job aids,” she said.

Her counterpart from Ogbadibo Local Government,  Mrs. Mary Ajogwu, stressed that at the end of the series of trainings, participants will be well mobilized to drive down the UNICEF enlightenment campaigns to nooks and crannies of the state.

“We all expect nothing less than 95 percent success in this campaign against childhood killer diseases which is anchored on infant and young child feeding strategy and hygienic leaving in the rural communities,” Ajogwu said.

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