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Canadian MPs on a field visit in Tanzania

Canadian members of Parliament Marwan Tabbara and Lianne Rood travelled to Tanzania in January to see the impact of Canadian-funded projects in the country. The visit, organized by RESULTS Canada, took them to the Simiyu region, where Nutrition International is implementing the Right Start initiative.

Right Start is a five-year project funded by the Government of Canada, designed to improve the health and nutrition of women, adolescent girls, newborns, and young children. The initiative launched in Tanzania in April 2017 and is being implemented with support from Amref Health Africa. It combines nutrition education and weekly iron and folic acid supplementation (WIFAS) for adolescents, maternal and newborn health and nutrition, and infant and young child nutrition.

Maternal and newborn health and nutrition

The MPs visited the Ngulyati Health Centre, where they saw the reproductive and child health clinic, labour ward and postnatal clinic. They also had the opportunity to observe an educational and counseling session on nutrition, with both mothers and fathers participating.

In the labour ward, the delegation met the facility in-charge, as well as three mothers who had given birth there and were now practicing early initiation of breastfeeding and kangaroo mother care, or skin-to-skin contact. The facility in-charge also explained the importance of appropriately timed cord clamping, to avert anaemia in newborns.

Adolescent nutrition

The next site visit was to Mbiti Secondary School, one of 16 schools in the district where WIFAS for girls and nutrition education for both girls and boys are being delivered as part of Right Start. The MPs met with Salome Gulenga, the head teacher who described the students’ improved school performance.

“We have seen the rate of absenteeism for girls reducing, and improvement in performance each year,” she said. “The program is performing well.”

The delegation also observed a peer-to-peer nutrition education session. Using simple charts to demonstrate, students explained the importance of different nutrients for the body.

“The presentation from students on the benefits of having a healthy diet showed certain food groups that are essential for consumption and for sustaining their body,” said Taryn Russel, the campaign director for RESULTS Canada. “Great teachers and staff helped organize the session and there were youth who were active in promoting the messages to their fellow students. We want to see this type of organization by Nutrition International, RESULTS, and Amref to help communities thrive and flourish.”

Nutrition education

The final stop was in the community of Dutwa during open market day. Community health workers visit on these days to educate the community on nutrition and health. To draw a larger crowd, the health workers use a mix of song, dance and drama to teach the residents about topics such as exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding. They also emphasize the importance of giving birth in a health facility.

“We want to assure you that we will continue to give support to all organizations coming to the region to accomplish their objectives of helping the communities,” he said.