As Fati Mariko says, let’s focus on what our women and children are eating

“Inadequate diet is one of the causes of the multiple health problems experienced by mothers and children in Niger. Yet, with simple, cost-effective actions we can feed our women and our children well” (Fati Mariko).

On Thursday 20 January 2022, the official launch of the social communication campaign on nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children aged 6 to 23 months, led by the Nigerien Ministry of Health, was held at the north Koira Kano integrated health centre in district 1 in Niamey. The launch was organised by the MERIEM project teams in collaboration with senior officials from the Regional Directorate of Public Health and the Directorate of Nutrition. Several of the project’s partner organisations and prominent figures were in attendance, in particular the Governor of the Niamey region and the Deputy General Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Action.

The ceremony began with a speech by the well-known Nigerien singer Fati Mariko, who recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women use local foods with high nutritional value, available at lower prices. A sponsor of the project, she composed a song conveying this message especially for the occasion.

GRET’s country representative then spoke and recalled that this campaign is part of the national strategy to prevent malnutrition, as defined in the national nutrition security policy and in the 3N initiative (Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens).

The Governor of the region, alongside the Deputy General Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, sponsor of the launch, then officially launched the campaign, ending with these words: “this is an opportunity to congratulate NGO GRET and its partners for all their efforts in this fight against malnutrition”.

Speech by Fati Mariko, a sponsor of the campaign – ©GRET 2022

GRET’s country representative – ©GRET 2022

3 questions to the Meriem project teams to better understand the campaign

The social communication campaign began last November, with the participation of two Nigerien civil society organisations (CSOs). Firstly, the campaign messages focused on pregnant and breastfeeding women’s eating practices. This year, over a period of one and a half months, young child feeding will be covered. The campaign is broadly mobilising various channels to promote feeding practices recommended in the messages, in order to contribute to preventing malnutrition in young children and women of childbearing age.

What do the screenings followed by debates, and culinary demonstrations organised as part of this campaign, consist of?

For Ibbo Amadou of GRET: “We screen films followed by debates, where participants see a film featuring characters talking on the subject, with whom they can identify. After the film, a debate takes place, enabling additional information to be provided if necessary.

The culinary demonstration is a completely different awareness-raising technique, promoting recommended feeding practices. It consists of using locally available foods to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal, with a view to preventing malnutrition in children and women of childbearing age”.

The screening-debate and culinary demonstration sessions are being conducted in 10 health centres in Niamey during the various consultations, and in 6 neighbourhoods with women’s groups, concessions and fadas. The sessions are facilitated by the 2 national partner CSOs’ teams.”

 

Culinary demonstration in a neighbourhood – ©GRET 2022

 What is the new AlloLaafia service proposing?

AlloLaafia is a first in Niger. It aims to raise awareness through mobile phone messages. The service was jointly developed by the Ministry of Public Health, the Population and Social Affairs, in close collaboration with GRET. Text messages are sent to pregnant women and their husbands, and to parents of children aged 6 to 23 months. The advice received is personalised and adapted according to the stage of pregnancy or the age of the child.

In Niamey, thanks to this campaign, more than ten thousand people subscribed to the service. Having a mobile phone, knowing how to read, or having a trustworthy person who can read the messages received are among the criteria for subscription to the service. Each subscriber receives 2 to 3 text messages a week on eating practices and health”, explains Warsou Ousmane of GRET.

Have there been other innovations apart from the AlloLaafia service?

The campaign rolled out by GRET and its partners also has a national scope, with the broadcasting of two short awareness-raising clips on national television and radio channels. “The message is clear and strong: “let’s listen to our babies”, says Amélie Girel of GRET, who adds: “Our sponsor Fati Mariko’s song is also played on two community radios. Naturally, all the messages conveyed via the mass media are available in three languages – Hausa, Zarma and French – to reach as many people as possible”.

Fati Mariko is a well-known singer-songwriter in Niger, who is appreciated for her commitment to worthy causes. Her active involvement as sponsor of the campaign will enable greater visibility and increased interest among the population around prevention of maternal and child malnutrition in Niger”, explains Ibbo Amadou of GRET. With the song and the clip she created especially for the campaign and thanks to her presence at several screening-debate sessions and culinary demonstrations, Fati Mariko is generously providing precious help.

 Fati Mariko and two facilitators from the ADN KAMNA CSO – ©GRET 2022

The multitude of channels used for this campaign should yield results in terms of providing knowledge and adoption of eating habits that are favourable for the health of pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children in urban areas in Niamey. It will be the subject of external evaluation to demonstrate its efficiency and its impact. As Fati Mariko says in her song: “let’s focus on what our women and children are eating!.