Transforming nutrition one community at a time

SUN Movement Learning Routes

By Maria Pizzini, SUN Movement Secretariat

28 May 2014 | Senegal – Something extraordinary is happening in Senegal this week.  Seven countries have been invited by the Fight Against Malnutrition Unit (CLM) hosted by the Office of the Prime Minister to see first-hand how Senegal is scaling up nutrition.   Representatives of government and civil society from Benin, Burundi, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone and Peru are spending the next few days together under the leadership of Mr Abdoulaye Ka, Senegal’s SUN Movement Government Focal Point forging new relationships and accelerating their own understanding of nutrition by sharing critical insights the most practical questions.

Children in Kaolack #Senegal tell SUN Movement learning route participants about the importance of diversified diets.

Children in Kaolack Senegal tell SUN Movement learning route participants about the importance of diversified diets. Photo: @SUN_Movement

So what is different?  To start, very few if any laptops or smartphones seem to distracting participants and rather than debate what nutrition programmes could look like, this group is seeing with their own eyes.  To kick off this pilot programme, the CLM provided an in-depth overview of the way they work in the decentralized system of government in Senegal.  This was followed by an ‘experience fair’ where each country presented their own approaches, priorities and challenges.  After less than 24 hours in the capital, the group ventured four hours out to Kaolack, a salt-producing area, to speak with representatives from the Rural Council (in between several impressive percussion sets) about the role that local government authorities are playing in fighting malnutrition.

Representatives from the nearby village of Gossas explained to the group that after they were announced to have the worst nutrition indicators in the area, they decided to take action.  Community nutrition workers walked through group through the steps they take in ensuring that mothers and their babies are well nourished including routine child weight and growth monitoring, cooking demonstrations, home visits and group discussions to promote nutrition-improving behavior.   The engagement of all members of the community in these actions, combined with enriched cereals and an iodized salt bank are helping Gossas to slowly but surely push itself up the ranks as one of Senegal’s shining community-level nutrition success stories.

Only two days in to this week long exercise, not much encouragement to speak and certainly no energy-boosting exercises are needed with this group.  The debates and discussions are intense and forthcoming.  Tough questions are asked and respondents seldom spare any hard truths.  The participants from these eight countries are doing exactly what was envisioned when the SUN Movement started in 2009 – coming together to inspire country-led transformations for nutrition – one village at a time.