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Collective feeding makes children healthier in Sri Lanka

Communities work together to ensure children get the best care.
Communities work together to ensure children get the best care.
September 17, 2012

An estimated 7,600,000 children under the age of 5 die every year, more than 70% of them in Africa and Southeast Asia. About 2/3 of these deaths are caused by preventable diseases, while more than 1/3 of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.

For 75 years, Plan has been working in remote, impoverished parts of the world to teach parents better practices to keep their children healthy, happy and alive.

Lower caste = poor quality care

In Kudugama village of Sri Lanka’s North Central province, 47% of children under the age of 5 were underweight. Because villagers were from a lower caste, they received lower quality health services than neighboring villages and dared not complain to officials to improve the situation.

Plan and facilitators from the Foundation for Health Promotion and Rajarata University began work to train public health midwives on issues of excluded communities. Through role playing, peer feedback, case studies, and home visits, the midwives devised a strategy to help such communities address issues such as malnutrition.

Eventually, villagers came to trust their midwife – boosting confidence among the mothers.

“We learned that if children are stimulated well during their early childhood, they will grow with enough strength and intelligence to achieve their dreams. We realized that our small world can improve immensely by simple changes that we can make happen,” several mothers shared after a community meeting.

Gathering to feed their children

They began collective feeding sessions for the children, which helped children to socialize and eased the burden on each poor household to provide a good variety of food to their children.

The mothers monitored the variety of their children’s diets, and within three months, the average monthly weight gain of their children, aged 2-5, increased from a meager two ounces per month to nine ounces per month. For the 0-5 age group, the figure shot up from two ounces to 11 ounces.

“We used to hide when the public health midwife came for home visits,” the mothers said.

“Now, we eagerly look forward to the next weighing session to share our progress with our closest friend in our changed world – our public health midwife.”

Learn more about Plan's health programs

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