Alive & Thrive is an initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices. In its first five years (2009 to 2014), A&T demonstrated that innovative approaches to improving feeding practices could be delivered with impact and at scale in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Viet Nam. Alive & Thrive continues its work there and is supporting others to scale up nutrition by applying and adapting tested, proven approaches and tools in Burkina Faso, India, Southeast Asia, and Nigeria. Alive & Thrive is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the governments of Canada and Ireland.
The Nigeria A&T IYCF social and behavior change program focuses on improving rates of early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, timely introduction of complementary feeding, and minimum dietary diversity for infants over 6 months old. A&T will work across the public, commercial/private, and NGO sectors to improve IYCF through A&T’s four components: advocacy, interpersonal communication and community mobilization, mass communication, and strategic use of data. At the national level, A&T will predominantly work with its public, private/commercial, and NGO sector partners (Scaling Up Nutrition and other national IYCF initiatives) to improve the implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of key IYCF policies (Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes; maternity entitlements; work place policies; breastfeeding-friendly health care and delivery facilities). A&T will also work in two states—Lagos (metropolitan) and Kaduna (urban and rural)—to apply the four components to reach households, communities, and facilities with targeted, age-appropriate social and behavior change communication (SBCC) messaging on IYCF practices.
A&T is scaling up proven interventions in Nigeria while generating new evidence by testing innovations. One of the innovations is the delivery of an IYCF counseling package for private health facilities. In Nigeria, a substantial number of women attend ANC and delivery services in private facilities (e.g. 56% in Lagos state, DHS 2013), yet there is not a standard package of care provided by private practitioners. Young children are also brought to private facilities for treatment of illnesses but counseling on IYCF that can help recovery from illnesses is not a standard practice.
Therefore, A&T plans to document the feasibility of delivering a standardized package of IYCF counseling and support in private health facilities located in urban Lagos, with a focus on breastfeeding. A separate external evaluation of this program will generate evidence on the impact of implementing the IYCF package on exclusive breastfeeding practices. The final package of IYCF services is expected to be scaled up through the network of private health facilities and medical/nursing associations in Nigeria.