The Nourishing Hand: A Quick (Re-)Introduction to Growth through Nutrition

open handIt simply takes visualizing an open hand to learn about the Growth through Nutrition project; the USAID funded multisectoral nutrition and WASH project implemented in five regions of Ethiopia since 2016. The five fingers/digits and the palm symbolize major result areas of the project that push towards improved nutritional status of mothers and children. Each finger, with a uniting palm, plays its own role and comes together more often for a common goal of beating undernutrition. 

The first digit toils to ensure perennial access to diverse, safe and nourishing foods among subsistence farming households. It identifies and supports needy households with key agricultural inputs and technical knowhow to ensure production and consumption of nutritious foods among deprived mothers and children. It strives to create model households and institutions that others can learn from on nutrition-friendly agriculture practices and new technologies, and collaborates with relevant government and private bodies to strengthen the whole system that leads and implements agricultural and livelihood activities. 

The second digit nudges individuals and households of the rural community to practice optimal nutrition behavior leading to improved nutrition. Working closely with other relevant organs in the community, it communicates key messages on nutrition, health, hygiene and sanitation among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, adolescents and influential family and community members. This digit smartly switches among multiple channels including community conversations, household visits, mass media, religious institutions and mobile technology to ensure wider reach of nutrition messages.  

The third digit labors towards increasing health and nutrition service utilization among the nutritionally vulnerable mothers and children. This it does by leveraging activities of the government through capacity building activities towards quality and integrated nutrition service delivery, uninterrupted availability of key nutrition commodities, and proper data management in rural primary health care facilities.  

The fourth digit, often a bit wet as it drills to increase access to clean water supply and to basic hygiene and sanitation products, strives towards the right mix between fulfilling the material need and soft behavioral change related activities required to create clean physical environment where a well-nourished child thrives. It also works for harmonious engagement of private, government, and community actors to ensure sustained hygienic and sanitation practices in rural communities. 

Finally, the last digit, together with the palm that supports the development of broader policies, strategies and programs, plays key roles in guiding and leveraging efforts of other digits. It reinforces the capacity of health, agriculture, WASH and education sectors, brings them together for joint actions, and cultivates the future nutrition workforce through pre-service education strengthening activities. 

The project also has tissues that traverse across all fingers like sinews: crosscutting elements. These keep track of how each finger performs (monitoring and evaluation); document, investigate and point out lessons (research and learning); ensure fair and equal engagement of women and men in nutrition actions (gender); and brace all fingers together to shake hands and work together with others toward the same goal (convergence and layering). 

Finally, a closer look at the palm lines (without the need for the basics on palmistry), tells where the project is destined to reach. Stunting, a good marker of prolonged undernutrition, will be reduced by 20% from the 38% recorded at baseline. While time will soon witness whether that target will be met, each digit will inevitably seal a lasting fingerprint in the annals of our nutrition history.

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