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Understanding malnutrition and health choices at the community level in Sierra Leone - ODI report

Author: Lisa Denney and Richard Mallett with Ramatu Jalloh: Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Year: 2014
Resource type: Report

This research is part of the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) research programme in Sierra Leone, which is concerned with state capacity to prevent malnutrition. Through multiple stages of research, the programme seeks to explore how governments 
and development partners might better focus their investments to prevent malnutrition. 

This report responds to the second research question in that programme: What are the 
blockages to preventing malnutrition at the community level? The report focuses primarily on the second two underlying causes: inadequate care for children and women, and insufficient health services and unhealthy environment. Ultimately, the report finds that a number of social factors at the community level play a central role in enabling the conditions for malnutrition. 

These include the perceived unproblematic use of herbal medicines for infants during ‘exclusive’ breastfeeding, the role of gendered power relations in household decision-making, and rainy 
season dynamics. Other factors, such as traditional beliefs around sexual intercourse while breastfeeding and food taboos, appear to play less of a role than might be expected. Further, these social factors also play an important role in the ways that people utilise the health 
system – broadly understood to include a plural set of providers. On this basis, we argue that preventing malnutrition requires a nuanced understanding of these social factors that directly influence behaviour related to the underlying causes of malnutrition.
 

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Lisa Denney and Richard Mallett with Ramatu Jalloh: Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (2014). Understanding malnutrition and health choices at the community level in Sierra Leone - ODI report. www.ennonline.net/malnutritionsierraleoneodi

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