Published: Monday, 22 February 2016 16:57
The Directorate of Food and Nutrition with support from the National Scaling Up Nutrition Secretariat (SUN) at the Office of the Vice President on Thursday 4th February, held the first National Anaemia Working Group meeting (NAWG). Following the Micronutrient Survey conducted in 2013, which found that 70% of children under 5 suffered from anaemia, the study also revealed that 45% of women of child-bearing age also suffered from anaemia. The meeting pulled together various nutrition and health partners from government line ministries, civil society, UN Agencies to identify strategies to address the causes of anaemia in Sierra Leone.
The National Anaemia Working Group (NAWG) meeting was chaired by Aminata Shamit Koroma, Director of Food and Nutrition (DFN) Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS),- and co-chaired by Dr. Mohamed Foh, National Coordinator for SUN. Participants included Dr. Mary Hodges, Lead for the Anaemia Secretariat, and Country Director for Helen Keller International; Dr. Smith, Head of Malaria Programme, Dr. Namaste Sorrel, Anaemia Technical Advisor, SPRING who gave presentations. Other partners at the meeting included organisations such as FOCUS1000, Save the Children, IMC, SNAP, Plan, World Vision Iinternational and Government partners; Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security, Princess Christian Maternity Hospital, Ministry Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs, Ministry of Trade Industry , Teenage Pregnancy Secretariat. UN partners: UNICEF and FAO, Irish Aid and USAID donors for the anaemia progrmme.
During the meeting, partners reviewed the evidence in the report from the Sierra Leone context. Reviewed the Terms of Reference ToR of the working group; presentations on the Community Health Worker platform from Dr Smith and the causes of Anaemia were elucidated by Dr. Namaste. Some interventions to reduce anaemia were recommended under direct interventions like malaria prevention and control, deworming and supplementation and; indirect interventions such Breastfeeding, infant young child feeding, family planning, female education, WASH and gender empowerment as key components to reducing anaemia.
Key findings from the study shows that malaria and inflammation are the major factors for anaemia, with only 4% of cases being related to iron deficiency, indicating that this is not the major cause.
Moving forward, NAWG plans to develop a strategy that will include as community engagement component ensuring that key messages developed reach key beneficiaries and uptake of positive hygiene and nutrition practices adopted.
Dr Namaste stressed the need for partners to integrate interventions if we were to meet global nutrition targets to reduce anaemia by 50% among women of reproductive age by 2025 (World Health Assembly). There is a need for improved access to latrine usage as open defecation was indentified as one of the highest risk behaviours in the country.
The next NAWG meeting is planned for March when ToR will be finalized and work towards a National strategy will begin.
By: Ramatu Jalloh
Coordinator, SUN and Immunization CSP