International Medical Corps is undertaking a 5-year program to improve the long-term health and nutritional status of over 50,000 children and mothers in Sierra Leone through ACDI/VOCA’s Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture Promotion (SNAP) project funded by USAID’s Food For Peace.
Rather than treating young children after they have already become malnourished, International Medical Corps is implementing the Preventing Malnutrition in Children Under 2 Years of Age Approach (PM2A) through the SNAP project. The PM2A model focuses on mothers/children from pregnancy to age 2, so as to prevent conditions leading to malnutrition and protect children during their most critical development period. The SNAP project combines the PM2A model with agricultural initiatives implemented by ACDI/VOCA to improve long-term food security across Sierra Leone’s most malnourished and impoverished chiefdoms in Bombali, Kailahun, Koinadugu, and Tonkolili districts.
The success of the PM2A program will center around SNAP’s cadre of 1,335 volunteer “Lead Mothers”- women chosen by their communities to act as role models and teach their peers sustainable practices for good health and hygiene, appropriate feeding strategies for children, preparation techniques for nutritious meals using local foods, and other skills. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation will be closely involved in the project, to build the capacity of local health providers at all levels. This will improve the health outcomes of mothers and children, as well as all people in the project communities.
“With PM2A at its center, International Medical Corps has developed a holistic approach to sustainable nutrition. This program will build the capacity of local health workers, increase good household health and hygiene behaviors, and improve nutritional knowledge and eating habits,” said Miel Hendrickson, International Medical Corps Regional Coordinator for Great Lakes/West Africa. “Implementing a program based on all of these factors will help these vulnerable families stay healthy long after the project has ended.”
Amid a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, International Medical Corps arrived in 1999 to deliver lifesaving emergency medical services – and remained as a key player after the war ended to help rehabilitate the health care system. The organization’s services in the country have included primary and secondary health care, nutrition, maternal/child care, mental health care, water/sanitation and training.