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5 Aug 19

Nutrition: Prevention over Treatment

We understand the importance of good nutrition in ensuring healthy communities. Our programmes incorporate nutrition into our primary healthcare support and agricultural training, for communities living in some of the most remote regions of Nepal. As we work towards ending malnutrition in accordance to Goal 2: Zero Hunger of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is important to consider the role of good nutrition in achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

In a recent article, the UN-Assistant Secretary General and Coordinator of the SUN Movement, Gerda Verburg, expressed the importance of good nutrition in achieving UHC. She states that “Achieving UHC is vital for ending malnutrition, and UHC will not be achieved unless nutrition is at the centre.” Her post goes on to elucidate the necessity for integrating nutritional services within primary healthcare as a way of achieving UHC in a cost-effective way. At PHASE Worldwide, we could not agree more and we are happy to share some of the ways we are integrating nutritional services within our programmes.Whilst primary healthcare provision is at the centre of our work, we believe in prevention over treatment. This is why we run integrated programmes, combining health coverage with agricultural training, livelihoods support and nutritional education. The programmes we support are designed to empower communities to have more control over the way they grow their own food, supporting them to grow a variety of nutritious crops all-year-round. This alleviates stress on healthcare provision and establishes a strong foundation upon which we can run other programmes.

In her article, Verburg addresses that malnutrition is an underlying cause of almost half of all child deaths worldwide. In Nepal, 1.7 million children under the age of five are currently suffering from at least one form of malnutrition (WHO, 2018). It is vital that we tackle the causes of malnutrition in children at such a critical stage of their development. Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life provides a secure foundation for healthy physical and cognitive development. We are currently running a programme funded by the department for international development (DFID) which is addressing causes of malnutrition in communities in Mugu.

Mugu is a district of Nepal currently experiencing extremely high child malnutrition rates. Our programme integrates healthcare and nutrition components to address malnutrition from multiple directions. Our livelihoods trainers work with the community to develop productive farming techniques and improve food security. In addition to this, our auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) conduct regular community health visits and outreach programmes which focus on identifying causes of malnutrition within the community, then informing and educating community members on good health practises and nutritious diets.

Much of our work focuses on women and children. By doing this, we ensure that the training and support being delivered is received by those who need it most. We have supported the formation of mothers’ committee meetings to ensure that mothers are educated on the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy and their child’s early years. As Verburg states, the health of pregnant and lactating women and adolescent girls must be invested in if we are to sustainably address malnutrition and achieve zero hunger by 2030.

We will continue to place good nutrition at the forefront of our primary healthcare provision in Nepal. PHASE Worldwide and PHASE Nepal have recently been recognised by the UK Government for our contribution towards SDG 2: Zero Hunger.

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