Menu ENN Search

Social context of child care practices and nutrition in Niger

Summary of published research1

In 2004-5, Niger suffered a food crisis during which global attention focused on high levels of acute malnutrition among children. In response, decentralised emergency nutrition programmes were introduced into much of southern Niger. However, based on the premise that child malnutrition is a chronic problem with complex links to food production and household food security, Concern Worldwide commissioned a qualitative anthropological study to investigate pathways by which children are rendered vulnerable in the context of a nutritional emergency. The study focused on household-level decisions that determine resource allocation and childcare practices in order to explain why practices apparently detrimental to children's health persist. Data were collected in January and February 2006 in Tahoua and Illela Districts from three major ethnic groups. A range of qualitative methods, e.g. semi-structured interview, direct participant observation, etc, were used to elicit local understanding and coping practices, with triangulation of material from different sources. Sampling was purposive to include households with diverse child nutritional status, livelihood security, subsistence systems, ethnic groups and distance from health services. Current and recent health status was ascertained from children's growth and health records.

Child care practices found to contribute to nutritional vulnerability included poor infant feeding practices, failure to direct high quality foods towards young children, poor hygiene practices and uptake of health services, and failure to dedicate extra resources to sick or failing children. Wider constraints on child-care practices and household decision-making included poverty and livelihood insecurity. This led to risk aversion and constrained decision-making, identity and status, e.g. not selling off a wedding trousseau, intra-household gender relations and bargaining power, and negotiation of beliefs and practices, e.g. cultural norms for infant and child feeding also have deleterious outcomes for child health and nutrition.

According to the authors of the study, child care practices, including intra-household allocation of food and health resources, must be understood within the range of constraints under which parents operate. These include chronic livelihood insecurity, with the concomitant need to maintain productive assets and social and symbolic capital. They also hinge upon power relations within households, with shifts of balance occurring where there is widespread out-migration and polygamy.

There are a number of policy implications of these findings.

The authors conclude that understanding and responding to the social context of child malnutrition will help humanitarian workers to integrate their efforts more effectively with longer-term development programmes aimed at improving livelihood security. It is now clear to humanitarian workers in Niger that they are dealing with a protracted crisis, which involves moving to a more integrated 'twin track approach' addressing both short-term needs and longer term causes of nutritional vulnerability. The authors argue that adequate prevention activities in the broadest sense must be implemented alongside the treatment programmes, and both should be gradually mainstreamed into health services and livelihood programmes.

Show footnotes

1Hampshire. K et al (2009). The social context of childcare practices and child malnutrition in Niger's recent food crisis. Disasters, 2009, vol 33 (1), pp 132-151

More like this

FEX: Chronic vulnerability in Niger

Summary of published research1 Niger has suffered from chronic malnutrition, rooted in structural vulnerabilities, for several decades. According to a recent article in...

FEX: Effect of an emergency cash transfer programme on weight gain and acute malnutrition risk in Niger

Research snapshot1 Assessment of the impact of emergency cash transfer programmes on child nutritional status has been difficult to achieve due to the considerable logistic...

Cash Transfer Programmes and their impact on MAM

Cash Transfer Programmes and their impact on Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) Donor: OFDA ENN Project Lead: Carmel Dolan and Jeremy Shoham Timeframe: September 2013 to...

FEX: Review of food security and nutrition amongst urban poor

Summary of review1 Location: Kenya, Niger, Bangladesh What we know: A significant and increasing proportion of the world population resides in urban slums. Achieving food...

FEX: Integrated food security programming and acute malnutrition prevention in the Central African Republic

By Amanda Lewis, Food Security and Livelihoods Head of Department, ACF Central African Republic Lisez cet article en français ici Amanda Lewis is the Head of...

FEX: Impact of a homestead food production programme on household and child nutrition in Cambodi

Summary of research1 Location: Cambodia What we know: Food-based strategies such as homestead food production have the potential to increase micronutrient intake and improve...

FEX: The REFANI Project in Pakistan: adapting research to a multi-sectoral programme for impact measurement

By Zvia Shwirtz, Bridget Fenn, Riccardo Mioli, Ghulam Murtaza Sangrasi and Maureen Gallagher Zvia Shwirtz is currently the REFANI Communications and Research Uptake Officer,...

FEX: Market analysis and humanitarian action in Niger

Summary of published research1 Women and children, in the village of Barmou, gather and wait to receive WFP distributed food In April 2005, a typical household in Niger...

FEX: Effectiveness of a community-based infant and young child feeding support group programme among ethnic minorities in Vietnam

By Md Masud Rana, Huan Nguyen Van and Thach Nguyen Ngoc View this article as a pdf Md Masud Rana is a Nutrition Advisor with Save the Children with a particular focus on...

FEX: Cash transfers and child nutrition

Summary of research1 Location: Global What we know: Cash transfer (CT) programming is an expanding form of social protection that has potential to improve child...

FEX: Somali KAP Study on Infant and Young Child Feeding and Health Seeking Practices

By Waweru Joseph Mwaura and Grainne Moloney Joseph Waweru has worked as Nutrition Project Officer with the FAO Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) Nutrition Surveillance...

FEX: Nutrition assessments in Zimbabwe: a local perspective

By George Kararach For the past two years, George Kararach has worked as a consultant policy analyst in Zimbabwe - for the last year working with UNICEF Zimbabwe. The support...

FEX: Livelihoods analysis and identifying appropriate interventions (Special Supplement 3)

3.1 Livelihoods assessment and analysis in emergencies The livelihoods framework provides a tool for analysing people's livelihoods and the impact of specific threats or shocks...

FEX: Training Care Groups on sexual and gender-based violence in rural Niger

By Bruce W Larkin and Julie Tanaka View this article as a pdf Bruce W Larkin is a doctoral candidate (MD) at the Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion...

en-net: Concern seeking Trials for Improved Practice Study consultant, Uganda

Proposed Visit Date: June 2013 Reports to: RWANU Health and Nutrition Director and ACPD-Programmes 1. Introduction & Background: Concern Worldwide (Concern), ACDI/VOCA and...

FEX: Mental health needed for caring capacity

By Saskia van der Kam Kaz de Jong and Maureen Mulhern also contributed to this article. Saskia van der Kam is the headquarters nutritionist in MSF Holland. Kaz de Jong, is a...

FEX: Emergency food-based programming in urban settings

Summary of published research1 Children attending Stara School, Nairobi, that receives WFP food support. The Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance 11 (FANTA-2) Project has...

FEX: Impact of food aid on two communities in Niger

By Sarah McKune and Nicole Hood Dr Sarah McKune is the Director of Public Health Programmes at the University of Florida. She has worked in the West African Sahel since 2004,...

FEX: Management of acute malnutrition in Niger: a countrywide programme

By Dr Guero H Doudou Maimouna, Dr Yami Chegou and Prof Ategbo Eric-Alain Dr Guero H Doudou Maimouna is a Paediatrician and holds a PhD in Public Health. She has over 15 years...

FEX: Seasonal Trends in Pastoral Malnutrition in Somalia

By Louise Masese Mwirigi and Joseph Waweru Ms Lousie Masese-Mwirigi works as a Nutrition Analyst for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) - Food...

Close

Reference this page

Social context of child care practices and nutrition in Niger. Field Exchange 36, July 2009. p8. www.ennonline.net/fex/36/social

(ENN_3925)

Close

Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.