In its effort to address stunting in Vanuatu, Save the Children Vanuatu has targeted three provinces to take the leading role in reducing this behavioural challenge.
Stunting is a term defined by the World Health organisation (WHO) as "the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median."
Save the Children is addressing stunting through one of its programs known as the First 1, 000 Days.
"The program is called the First 1, 000 Days because it targets the first 1, 000 days of a child," Michel Cap Andy, Save the Children Shefa Field Manager explained. "The first 1, 000 days of a child is significant to the child's future. It covers the period from the day a child is conceived right through the child's second birthday.
"So basically, this program is trying to change some of the behaviours in the early life of a child. For instance, simple practices such as failing to wash hands after going to the toilet will leave a child with diarrhea. This is one of the practices that is not often practiced."
Recently, the NGO organised a four-day orientation workshop which brought together 14 participants from Efate. The participants consisted of fathers, mothers and grandmothers, the three-key people who are heavily engaged in the early stages of a child.
Cap Andy said the participants have been identified as support group facilitators whose prime roles in their communities would be to create support groups or or also known as self-help groups, and encourage members within the support groups.
The support groups would be comprised of young fathers and mothers and each support group would have not more than 15 members. A support group facilitator would be responsible for at least one support group in his or her community. A support group facilitator would hold a support group meeting once a month and provide trainings on how to care for their children in their first 1, 000 years.
At the orientation workshop, the participants were able to acquire as much information as they could on how to run a support group. They also obtained background information on nutrition and essential hygiene actions.
The participants also went through counselling techniques, negotiations and skills that they could use during their meetings within their own support groups.
The program will be implemented in 11 communities within Shefa province. At the moment, it is being rolled out in five of these 11 selected communities.