Breastfeeding is critical to the health and survival of both mother and baby in emergencies. First and foremost our primary focus is to create programs as directed by the expressed needs of the communities where we work. In every instance we pass information and train local community members so that our programs are focused on building capacity of local communities and handing programs over to community members to ensure a sustainable response.
Nurture Project focuses its services around providing young child feeding counseling and support for pregnant and lactating women through a comprehensive program to promote breastfeeding as the safest, healthiest and most sustainable option for mothers to feed their babies in an emergency setting. When indicated through a comprehensive needs assessment, NPI also provides support for artificial feeding via infant formula and cup feeding in accordance with the International Code on Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes and the Infant Feeding in Emergencies Operational Guide. Where artificial feeding is necessary, NPI’s goal is to help mothers with re-lactation information and support.
NPI further supports pregnant women and new mothers with basic antenatal care (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC), and refers women to medical service providers when there are suspected pregnancy-related complications. Additional practical support to mothers includes distribution of weekly food packs for pregnant and lactating women and children 6-24 months as well as distribution of newborn packs, baby diapers, wipes, family planning materials, condoms and other relevant items. The assistance provided by NPI to mothers and babies is ongoing, with peer support from trained volunteers who develop, monitor and regularly review individual care plans.
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Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies
Commonly referred to as IYCF-E.
Disruption and displacement of populations in emergency situations greatly impacts on the health and nutrition status of infants and young children. During emergencies, even in previously healthy populations the rates of child mortality can soar up to 70 times higher than average and child morbidity and crude mortality rates can increase by 20% in 2 weeks due in particular to diarrhea and consequent malnutrition.
The youngest babies are the most vulnerable. The Lancet demonstrated that optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding could reduce child mortality in children under five more than any other preventative measure2 by up to 26%. In emergencies, this potential to save children’s lives through optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding could be even higher. For example, in emergencies, total infant mortality rate for infants under 1 year has been found to be 12-53% higher than normal.
In emergencies, feeding practices can be undermined by issues such as displacement, insecurity, lack of privacy and poor access to adequate nutrition for both mother and child. Adequate nutrition and care of infants and young children are key factors in ensuring health and survival and appropriate IYCF-E support has consequently become a major strategy in preventing and reducing child morbidity and mortality during humanitarian emergency response.
Malnutrition is one of the major threats to child survival during an emergency and for those who survive it can also have tremendous consequences on their cognitive, social, motor skill, physical and emotional development. If caught in time malnutrition can be usually be treated but this is not always the case, further management of acute malnutrition in infants is complicated by a lack of evidence and knowledge about diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment protocols in different contexts. For a myriad of reasons prevention of malnutrition must be the goal, with treatment as a safety net. The best way to prevent malnutrition is through ensuring optimal feeding and care for children through supporting exclusive breastfeeding, appropriate complementary foods, and a supportive care environment – the backbone of Nurture Project International’s infant feeding programs.
Nurture Project International has a team of dedicated nutritionists who provide weekly food packs to pregnant and lactating mothers, children from the age of six months to twenty-four months, and children at the risk of malnutrition from age two to five. Each pack costs around €3.50 and is filled with rice, protein, and fresh fruit and veggies. Mothers are taught to introduce solids from six months of age through our baby picnics and complementary feeding classes. We also teach mothers best feeding practices for their entire family while in the camp and help them work with the food that is available to them through general distribution.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE SERVICES
Nurture Project International provides family planning support, reproductive care, and basic midwifery support from EU licensed midwives. We provide referrals to local hospitals, clinics, and camp medical staff for complex or high-risk pregnancies. Our midwives provide prenatal care in our shelters in refugee camps and complex emergencies.
INFANT FEEDING SUPPORT
Amid the scramble to provide adequate shelter and care in emergency situations, the outline is emerging of an effective and low-cost intervention: providing a safe place where mothers can rest, eat and receive good advice about breastfeeding and nutrition.
In the past, mothers may have received some breastfeeding support at health centres, feeding centres or hospitals, but care for their healthy children often got lost in services for those who were severely ill or malnourished but there is a need for another level of care, specifically for mothers and their infants, separate from the sick children. This involves rest and food, education and support in a safe environment. Mothers who receive such care are better able to care for their babies.
Nurture Project International provides qualified, skilled volunteers who support mothers by building mother and baby tents where mothers can rest, eat, warm-up, and feed their babies in a safe, welcoming, and peaceful environment. In these tents NPI also distributes backpacks with basic necessities like snacks, water, warm clothing, hygiene kits, toys, and diapers to bring comfort to families who have left everything behind.
LACTATION SUPPORT TRAINING
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PEER TO PEER SUPPORT
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