One of the components of the Feed the Future Ethiopia Growth through Nutrition Activity is a Social and Behavior Change strategy to help improve community behaviors around nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
As part of the Enhanced Community Communication (ECC) behavioral change communication program, Growth through Nutrition rolled out a new tool in October 2018, titled the Virtual Facilitator Program. The program is composed of pre-recorded audio material that uses the voices of professional voice actors who play the roles of two fictional characters to model optimal behaviors and engage participants around crucial nutrition and nutrition sensitive topics. Although there is anecdotal evidence suggesting the tool’s value in engaging community learning, by testing the added benefit of the VF tool, Growth through Nutrition will be able to provide evidence to support recommendations for the project, as well as the Government of Ethiopia, on utilizing this tool throughout the country.
In collaboration with Save the Children and partners, Tufts University is leading the initiative to evaluate the added value of the virtual facilitator tool in improving nutritional status in Ethiopia under Growth through Nutrition program. Following consultation and collaboration with project implementing partners, the baseline survey was conducted from December 14 -15, 2018 to assess the nutrition and WASH knowledge, behavior and practices of project beneficiaries.
Following data collection training, Tufts’ data collection team departed for a pre-test in Tiyo woreda in Arsi zone before moving on to its study woredas: Becho in West Shewa, Baso Liben in East Gojjam and Girar Jarso in North Shewa. Data collection tool was modified based on findings from the pre-test. A total of 410 pregnant or lactating women with children under the age of 14 months were interviewed during the 6-day baseline data collection period to assess their added value of direct participation or through participation of husbands or grandmothers/mother-in-laws. The Monitoring Evaluation and Accountability and Learning (MEAL) team at Save the Children collaborated with Tufts University to provide technical support during field level data quality supervision. Despite challenges faced in the selection of study participants, the study was completed successfully ensuring a high level of data collection quality and close adherence to study protocol during data collection.
An endline survey will be conducted once the 10-month Virtual Facilitator intervention has been finalized to evaluate the added value of the tool.