"The health and nutrition fair initiative highlights the need to take a multi- sectoral approach to address undernutrition in Sierra Leone," said Dr Mohamed Foh, National Coordinator of SUN Secretariat. "Together, we can achieve what no single effort can, to make Sierra Leone nutrition strong!"
Sierra Leone is one of the world's least developed countries ranked 183/187 in the Human Development Index 2014, with one of the highest under five mortality rates in the world: 120 deaths for every 1,000 babies born. According to the Lancet, nutrition factors such as stunting (persistent nutritional deprivations over a long period of time) and wasting (acute undernutrition due to lack of food and/or frequent infections) and micronutrient deficiencies account for 35 per cent of under five children's deaths.
"Children's healthy growth in the first 1000 days of life is the best foundation for a strong and prosperous community and nation," said Aminata Shamit Koroma, Director of Food and Nutrition.
This fair brought together various partners from government ministries, departments and agencies, the UN system, civil society, community based organizations and private sector to promote interventions that contribute to better nutrition, food security and health.
The kind of an event was important because "communities need to be empowered through knowledge and participation to adopt positive practices that can improve the nutrition and health outcomes of children," said Mohamed Jalloh, Chief Executive Officer of Focus 1000 on behalf of the civil society platform. "Civil society plays a great role as we engage trusted networks such as religious leaders, market women and traditional healers who can reach everyone in every community across the country."
Activities at the fair included the promotion of preventive approaches to malnutrition such as the promotion of good infant and young child feeding practices, promotion of nutritious locally produced, easily accessible and inexpensive foods and promotion of positive health seeking behaviours such as the uptake of immunization, knowledge and utilization of health services.
"Nutrition is a social problem and its determinants are complex and multifaceted," said Geoff Wiffin, UNICEF Representative to Sierra Leone on behalf of the UN system. "Multiple sectors need to come together and collaborate so that children can grow up to be healthy, realize their rights and become economically productive adults. The UN therefore complements the Government's efforts to reduce malnutrition by collaborating with the various sectors that have a direct and indirect impact on nutrition such as health, education, WASH, agriculture and gender."