Formed in 2013, the SUN Civil Society Alliance (CSA) of Sierra Leone – known as the Scaling Up Nutrition and Immunization Civil Society Platform (SUNI CSP) – aims to combine the efforts of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to advocate for continued political commitment and investment in nutrition.
With Pooled Fund support, the CSA sought to strengthen the multi-sectoral platform (MSP) and increase the sense of ownership in nutrition initiatives among local stakeholders in order to reduce malnutrition.
With support from the Pooled Fun, the CSA organized a national nutrition fair, which brought together partners from various sectors to address malnutrition and hunger. Advocacy kits and briefing materials were distributed among national and local elected officials, the media and government administrators. These kits raised awareness of nutrition and associated health issues, particularly the need to enact policy related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
The MSP, with help from the Pooled Fund, conducted a mapping exercise of all nutrition partners in the country. This enabled it to record the competencies and contact information of every nutrition actor, which was a critical step in identifying and empowering district-level partners to develop and/or update their nutrition plans.
The MSP increasingly aligned itself with sub-national networks. For example, the national executive of the Kombra Network was established to engage local religious leaders, traditional healers, market women and community-based organizations in order to promote good nutrition practice in communities.
Together, they developed a manual containing key nutrition messages, supported with relevant passages from the Koran and the Bible, which has been used as a guide to facilitate health and nutrition promotion activities. The network used WhatsApp groups for nutrition partners to facilitate information-sharing and the reporting of district-level activities.
The CSA adopted an innovative approach to nutrition. First, it worked with imams, pastors, traditional healers and market women to promote exclusive breastfeeding, proper feeding for infants and young children, handwashing, immunization and other healthy behaviours to protect the health of women and children.
Secondly, it maintained a close and visible relationship with religious leaders and traditional healers through televised messages on nutrition and child health. This strategy aimed to dispel rumours and misconceptions about health issues and to enhance community trust in the health system.
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