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What is the importance of linking Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) programme to protection and livelihood programmes?

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This is a question that I've been asked in the field so I wanted to share it with everyone on KnowledgePoint

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The common factors that influence nutrition outcomes of infants/children include socioeconomic status of the family, literacy levels, influence of relatives, and access to safe nutrient-rich complementary foods.

Usually, most primary caregivers lack knowledge about both recommended breastfeeding and complimentary feeding (CF) practices. Lack of knowledge about aspects, such as appropriate complimentary feeding and foods (quality and quantity), is one of the most common barriers to appropriate complementary feeding.

However, studies have also proven that, ensuring adequate complementary feeding for children between 6 and 23 months is a major challenge for mothers and caregivers attending the counselling on IYCF. Putting into practice the advice received during the nutrition education sessions regarding appropriate food to introduce during the CF period and the methods of preparation has not always been easy and feasible. Caregivers in food insecure and disaster prone areas are particularly constrained by the deterioration in living conditions and facilities for food preparation, and the lack of appropriate complementary food in the relief effort. Buying fresh vegetables, fruits and meat could be a challenge for many mothers living in such areas.

In situations of food insecurity, high rates of malnutrition and poor IYCF practices, educating on IYCF remains critical but insufficient on its own to influence the nutrition outcomes of infant and children. The importance of integrated programming is a key strategic principle for interventions. Protection and livelihood programs integrated with IYCF will have synergic and complementary effects on the nutrition outcomes of the population.

Livelihood activities, for instance, will not only boost the economic status of the population but will also increase availability and access to nutritious food thus permitting for appropriate complementary feeding activities. Social protection programmes such as food, Cash or voucher transfer will be of great importance in filling the food access gap permitting for care givers to have access to appropriate nutritious food for their children. Protection programmes on its part will provide for safe and secure environments for infant and young child feeding practices.

For instance, in situations of population displacements and disasters leading to parents’ death, high number of orphaned and separated children will have profound implications for IYCF response, thus ensuring the safety, security of those children will definitely be a prerequisite to setting up an IYCF programme.

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