Shahnaz Gul, a Lady Health Worker (LHW), visits six-day-old Naveed and his mother at their home in Muzzafargarh District, Pakistan. LHWs are government employed and provide health advice and services to local communities. Save the Children have trained a number of LHWs to be able to identify, screen and refer malnourished children in the community to Outpatient Therapeutic Program sites. A Lady health Workers responsibilities include registering all those families within the area allocated to her. Shahnaz Gul has 259 families allocated to her. “My duties include looking after pregnant mothers, making sure they are vaccinated, informing them about check-ups, keeping a record of their children’s health and making sure they are vaccinated”. Lady Health Workers have helped reduce maternal and child mortality and other health related problems because they educate mothers about how to look after their children.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a childs life reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood. Breastfeeding benefits not only the child but the mother and family also, as it is free of cost and reduces the risk of infection in newborns, hence a reduction in medical bills. However, two thirds of Pakistani mothers do not exclusively breast feed for the first six months. Breast milk substitutes and animal milk not only lack essential immune-building components, they also expose the infant to an increased risk of infection and morbidity.
59% of mothers in Pakistan are illiterate. For a wide range of cultural and practical reasons, about one third of girls do not attend primary school in Pakistan, increasing the likelihood that they too will have undernourished children. A mother with fewer than four years of schooling has children who are twice as likely to die in infancy. In India and Pakistan mothers with no education have over two and a half more stunted children than those with education.
We run nutrition awareness-raising sessions that help empower women and improve the health of their children and themselves. We also target the male community to help engage fathers and educate them about their roles and responsibilities in combating child and maternal malnutrition.
Save the Children is advocating for the scale up of the government Lady Health Worker (LHW) Programme to incorporate the provision of skilled support to improve child feeding practices to the programme, including breastfeeding.