Alive & Thrive will formally launch a new program of activities in Nigeria in June thanks to support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Accelerating the scale of Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) in Nigeria” will implement interventions to improve MIYCN in six northern states and Lagos State.
“This phase will build on the successes and learning realized during the initiative’s first five years in Nigeria,” explained Country Director Victor Ogbodo. “It’s an exciting opportunity to save lives of women and children and in the process contribute to Nigeria’s attainment of the 2025 World Health Assembly targets for nutrition en route to the 2030 SDGs.”
From 2016 to 2021, Alive & Thrive strengthened the policy environment for infant and young child feeding (IYCF) at the national and state levels, built the capacity of frontline workers to support IYCF throughout the first 1,000 days period, and sensitized and engaged communities on IYCF practices. Working with national, state, LGA and community actors, interventions reached almost three million mothers with nutrition counseling by trained frontline workers.
"Alive & Thrive gave me a reason to exclusively breastfeed my baby and I have seen the benefit," said Maryam Hizkilu Mohammed, a mother of three in the Danriba Community of Kaduna State. "My first two children experienced mixed feeding and they face different health challenges. I now understand the importance of exclusive breastfeeding."
But progress towards global nutrition targets in Nigeria has been slow. For example, anemia among women of reproductive age has remained virtually unchanged over the past decade, according to the 2021 Global Nutrition Report. Similarly, prevalence of thinness (BMI<18.5) of women in Nigeria exceeds the global and regional average.
While some improvements have been made in early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding of infants, overall rates remain low. The country still has among the world’s highest child mortality rates and some of the lowest rates of recommended IYCF practices. Only 10% of children ages 6-23 months received a minimum acceptable diet and 23% achieved minimum dietary diversity (NDHS 2019).
Alive & Thrive “coming in now is indeed timely,” said Comrade Juliana Bitrus, Hon. Commissioner for Health Borno State, during a recent meeting with the Alive & Thrive team. “Through this collaboration we can address the challenges of maternal and child malnutrition in our state.”
The new phase, which will continue until 2026, will scale up MIYCN in Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Lagos states by working with state governments and strengthening local capacities.
"Nutrition is one of the most important components of primary health care," noted Dr. Tijani Hussaini, executive secretary of the Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board. "I am very delighted to have the Alive & Thrive project with us.
"Having a project that supports us to accelerate the scale of maternal, infant, and young child nutrition is very timely," he added. "Indeed, it is in line with our program's agenda and will go a long way in enhancing child health and development outcomes and saving lives through maternal, infant, and young child nutrition."
Recognizing the importance of maternal nutrition for better health and wellbeing outcomes for both women and their children, Alive & Thrive aims to improve the delivery of maternal nutrition interventions as well as MIYCN outcomes in focal states. Additionally, the initiative strives to improve data management, quality and increase use of data for decision-making.