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To collect context-specific insights into maternal and child health and nutrition issues, and to explore potential solutions in Nanoro, Burkina Faso.
Eleven focus groups with men and women from eleven communities, facilitated by local researchers.
The study took place in the Nanoro Health district, in the West-Central part of Burkina Faso.
Eighty-six men (18–55 years) and women by age group: 18–25; 26–34 and 35–55 years, participated in the group discussions.
Participants described barriers to optimal nutrition of mothers and children related to a range of community factors, with gender inequality as central. Major themes in the discussions are related to poverty and challenges generated by socially and culturally determined gender roles. Sub-themes are women lacking access to food whilst pregnant and having limited access to health care and opportunities to generate income. Although communities believe that food donations should be implemented to overcome this, they also pointed out the need for enhancing their own food production, requiring improved agricultural technologies. Given the important role that women could play in reducing malnutrition, these communities felt they needed to be empowered to do so and supported by men. They also felt that this had to be carried out in the context of an enhanced health care system.
Findings reported here highlight the importance of nutrition-sensitive interventions and women’s empowerment in improving maternal and child nutrition. There is a need to integrate a sustainable multi-sectorial approach which goes beyond food support.
To explore community perceptions on maternal and child nutrition issues in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Thirty focus groups with men and women from three communities facilitated by local researchers.
One urban (Soweto, South Africa) and two rural settings (Navrongo, Ghana and Nanoro, Burkina Faso) at different stages of economic transition.
Two hundred thirty-seven men and women aged 18–55 years, mostly subsistence farmers in Navrongo and Nanoro and low income in Soweto.
Differences in community concerns about maternal and child health and nutrition reflected the transitional stage of the country. Community priorities revolved around poor nutrition and hunger caused by poverty, lack of economic opportunity and traditional gender roles. Men and women felt they had limited control over food and other resources. Women wanted men to take more responsibility for domestic chores, including food provision, while men wanted more involvement in their families but felt unable to provide for them. Solutions suggested focusing on ways of increasing control over economic production, family life and domestic food supplies. Rural communities sought agricultural support, while the urban community wanted regulation of the food environment.
To be acceptable and effective, interventions to improve maternal and child nutrition need to take account of communities’ perceptions of their needs and address wider determinants of nutritional status and differences in access to food reflecting the stage of the country’s economic transition. Findings suggest that education and knowledge are necessary but not sufficient to support improvements in women’s and children’s nutritional status.
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