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Improved nutrition in Afghanistan

Photo: Sandra Calligaro for Action Against Hunger

WHAT IS THE ‘IMPROVED NUTRITION IN AFGHANISTAN’ PROJECT?

‘Improved Nutrition in Afghanistan’ is a three-year project that aims to improve maternal and childhood nutrition in the province of Ghor. Specifically, it aims to improve the delivery of nutrition services in health facilities and increase knowledge of proper feeding and care practices for newborns and infants among targeted communities. It also aims to improve access to safe drinking water for households in need, and promote proper sanitation and hygiene practices, among local communities.

Adopting a health system strengthening approach, the project is working to promote the prevention, timely detection, and treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM). It is providing trainings and on the job support to health facility staff on key nutrition services such as the ‘1000 days approach’ and treatment of SAM. It is also promoting proper infant feeding and care practices in communities directly, through trainings, information sessions, and media campaigns.

To improve access to safe water, water filtration units are being distributed to households, and community water points are being constructed or rehabilitated. The project is also constructing sanitation and waste management facilities as well as conducting hygiene promotion campaigns throughout targeted communities.

Implemented in 15 health facilities and 38 villages overall, the project specifically aims to achieve two main results:

  • Improved quality of nutrition services in targeted health facilities, and nutrition practices in targeted communities, particularly among women
  • Improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices in targeted communities and health facilities

 

WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE PROJECT?

The project will lead to improved nutrition among 30,800 people in the province, especially children and women of reproductive age.

WHY DOES THIS PROJECT MATTER?

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of under-five mortality in the world, in large part due to high rates of malnutrition among children. In fact, almost half of all under-five deaths are linked to undernutrition, while more than 80% of neonatal deaths occur among newborn infants of low birth weight, which is strongly linked to the poor nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women. According to the last nutrition survey conducted in Afghanistan, 24.6% of under-five children were underweight and 41% suffered from chronic malnutrition (stunting). Due to chronic nutritional deficiency, approximately 55% of Afghan under-five children are unable develop physically or mentally, as they should. Water-borne diseases are also a major contributor to child malnutrition in Afghanistan. In fact, in the same national survey, it was reported that over 25% of under-five children suffered from diarrhoea.

Within the country, Ghor is among the most affected provinces. Undernutrition, both chronic and acute, is high among under-five children in the province. According to a survey done in August 2016, the prevalence of stunting in Ghor was 51.3%. It is also among the most food insecure provinces with 36% of its population classified as severely insecure and 29% as moderately food insecure. In other words, around 220,895 people in Ghor are considered to be in need of assistance.

Moreover, people in Ghor also lack clean water and proper sanitation. In fact, only one in five households in Ghor has access to a safe drinking water source. Nearly half of the water points used by the population do not function or are unprotected and exposed to contamination. Combined with a lack of proper sanitation facilities, this has led to high rates of water-borne diseases and child morbidity in the province. At 36%, the incidence of diarrhea among under-5 children in Ghor is well above the national average.

Overall, factors contributing to malnutrition in Ghor, are deep rooted and diverse, and include inadequate infant feeding and care practices, poor diet, lack of access to food, clean water and sanitation. These issues are further compounded by the lack of access to quality healthcare services. The current capacity of the national and regional health systems to respond to these acute needs remain limited.  Recognizing these challenges, this project has been designed in a holistic and comprehensive manner to effectively reduce childhood malnutrition in the province.

WHO ARE WE WORKING WITH?

In addition to its core partnership with the Government of Canada, Action Against Hunger works on this project in collaboration with a range of partners to ensure that its actions have sustainable long-term impact. In Afghanistan, Action Against Hunger is working closely with the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Community Development Councils, community leaders, and most importantly the local communities themselves.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

The project plays a crucial role in improving maternal and childhood nutrition in the province of Ghor. More resources are needed to implement the project to its full potential, meet the needs of the communities, and make a long-lasting difference in the lives of many women and children in Afghanistan.

You can transform the lives of children and their families in communities like this by making a donation to Action Against Hunger.

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Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC).