8TH REGIONAL MEETING
Thirty delegates gathered in Islamabad between 7th-11th April, 2014. SAIFRN and UNICEF opened the meeting with an advocacy seminar. The Chief Guest was the Hon. Minister of State for Health, Mrs Saira Afzal Tarar. Prof Michael Dibley (SAIFRN – USYD) welcomed delegates and introduced SAIFRN. Prof. Dr. Tabish Hazir (SAIFRN-Pakistan) provided an overview of the status of infant and young child nutrition in Pakistan. Ms Sabrina Rasheed shared her research into the use of IYCF counselling in Bangladesh. Prof Durre Samin Akram described future IYCF programs in Pakistan. Ms Afzal Tarar expressed her government’s support for IYCF interventions appreciation of the SAIFRN’s activities.
Delegates spent the following week sharing the results of their research and planning the next stage of their interventions. Country teams presented the results of the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Policy Analysis Project and results of the Mobile Communications Pilot Project. Group exercises identified training of the health workers to determine gaps in the implementation of IYCF policies in respective countries as the next priority research area. Training on the use of the CommCare platform for the mhealth project was provided over two days by Ms. Saijai Liangpunsakul, a delegate from the Bangkok-based Dimagi.
Findings: Although breastfeeding had improved in India, complementary feeding practices remain poor. Awareness of the importance of breastfeeding was high in Pakistan but mixed feeding was common and complementary feeding practices were inadequate. Pre-lacteal feeding and early exposure to water continue in Nepal. However, complementary feeding is commonly initiated at 6 months. Sri Lanka was still collecting formative data but initial results suggest acceptance of the intervention. Prelacteal feeds are still common in Bangladesh. Although complementary foods are commonly introduced at six months, junk foods are too often included in the diets of infants.
Mobile phone penetration is high across the region. There was at least one mobile in almost every household, suggesting mobile phones present a feasible channel for behaviour change communications.
Input from other stakeholders: International Research Force, a market research firm based in Islamabad shared their intervention on prevention of pneumonia and diarrhea for children under five years of age. Mr. Sajjad Sarwar, Deputy Director, MNCH Program from the province of Punjab demonstrated shared the results of the CHARM, Health Watch and Nutrition Programs delivered via Lady Health Workers. Dr. Khizer from the World Food Program Islamabad participated in development of the intervention for Pakistan. Dr. Archana Patel from the Lata Medical Research Foundation shared her experiences managing common barriers to CommCare project implementation.