JDPC Idah implemented the USAID/Catholic Relief Service Sponsored Sustainable Mechanisms for Improving Livelihood and Household Empowerment (SMILE) Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) project in Igalamela/Odolu LGA of Kogi State between October 2014 and August 2018. The intervention was carried out in two major communities namely Ajaka and Odolu communities. The strategic objectives of the project are:
- To strengthen State and Local Government Areas capacity to coordinate and monitor holistic care to orphans and vulnerable Children (OVC) and their households
- To strengthen civil society organizations capacity to collaborate with communities to manage integrated and comprehensive OVC programs.
A total of 4087 vulnerable children from 1008 households were enrolled while need-based and age appropriate services were provided on routine basis in all the project communities.
Thematic areas of intervention and their key achievements
- Nutrition: Key nutrition interventions provided during the course of the project include:
- Nutrition education and counseling: JDPC Idah provided nutrition education and counseling for over 1500 caregivers using the key nutrition messages booklet and counseling cards. This was done during caregivers meetings, community-infant and young child feeding support group meetings, home visits and food demonstration sessions in the communities. This helped in improving the nutrition status in these households as a result of improved knowledge on the use of locally available food items to make nutrient rich adequate diets.
Figure 1: Community Volunteers providing Nutrition Education during caregivers Meetings at Odolu and Ajaka Communities
- Nutrition Assessment/Growth Monitoring: Nutrition assessment and growth monitoring was a key nutrition activity conducted during the course of the SMILE project. The following activities were conducted:
- Community Infant and Young Child Feeding (C-IYCF) Support Group Meetings: A total of 68 C-IYCF Support group meetings with 756 Members were formed in 2 major communities (Ajaka and Odolu). Trained Community Volunteers organized/facilitated monthly for the participants consisting of pregnant and lactating mother, young men and women of child-bearing age, old men and women. These meetings were used to educate the participants on best practices in infant and young child feeding.
A key achievement of these meetings was that it helped in increasing the level of awareness of exclusive breastfeeding in the communities which in turn increased the number of exclusively breastfed children in these communities.
- Home Gardening: JDPC Idah supported these communities to establish home gardens to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables which provide essential vitamins to the body. A total of 125 home gardens were established in these communities and crops such as spinach, pumpkins, bitter leaf and water leaf were planted by the caregivers. Apart from providing vegetables for household consumption, the caregivers also generated income through the sales of vegetables from their home gardens.
- Food Demonstration: Food demonstration was one of the key nutrition services carried out to teach the caregivers how to use locally available food items to improve the nutritional status of the households. Quarterly food demonstration sessions were conducted throughout the project life- cycle. The caregivers were taught how to prepare Tom-Brown, Tiger nut Milk and Soya Milk.
- Health: This was another major thematic area of intervention during the course of the SMILE project. The following achievements were recorded under this thematic area:
- Health Education: Community volunteers and project staff provided routine health education for the vulnerable children and their caregivers. Using key messages booklets and counseling cards the beneficiaries were educated on the need to maintain good personal and household hygiene, food safety and preservation.
- HIV Test and Counseling: Community HIV Test and Counseling Sessions were organized with the aim of knowing the HIV status of all the members of the households. A total of 4010 vulnerable children and 1626 caregivers were tested during the course of the project. 2 Positive cases were recorded (1 Male, and 1 Female). The Care and Support Officer ensured that escort services and adherence counseling were provided for positive cases.
Figure 2: Community HIV Test and Counseling Sessions at Ajaka and Odolu Communities
TB Symptoms Screening: Community TB symptoms screening was conducted quarterly in all the project communities using the TB Symptoms screening checklist. A total of 4010 children and 1626 caregivers were screened out of which 10 positive cases were identified and referred for proper care at designated health centres in the LGA.
Figure 3: TB treatment initiation at PHC Ajaka/ A Community Volunteer, JDPC Idah Care & Support Officer conducting adherence counseling during home visit
- Community Sensitization on Stigma and Discrimination against People Living with HIV/AIDS: Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV was one of the key activities carried out in this thematic area. JDPC Idah organized quarterly community dialogue meetings with key stakeholders in the communities such as religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, and Traditional) and other influential groups to help in sensitizing the people.
- WASH:Key Water, Sanitation and Hygiene messages were passed across using avenues such as caregivers meetings, C-IYCF support group meetings, Gender norms sessions, Kids/Youth Clubs. Using the key messages booklets, the community volunteers and other project staff educated the beneficiaries on the importance of hand washing during the 5 critical periods and maintaining good personal/household hygiene
- Household Economic Strengthening (HES): Several HES interventions were carried out during the course of the project. The aim of these activities was to improve the economic status of the household. The key activities were:
- Cash Transfer: Caregivers from a total of 375 most vulnerable households were given support. Household vulnerability Assessment form was used to determine the vulnerability index of these household which is a criteria for selecting all the beneficiaries. The caregivers used the money to start petty businesses while others used the money to purchase seeds and chemicals that improved their farms. This intervention improved the economic status of the households as there were able to use the proceeds to cater for other household needs such as education, health and Nutrition.
- Vocational Training: This was another key intervention carried out during the course of the project. 80 older vulnerable children and caregivers were enrolled at various vocational training centres in Ajaka and Odolu communities. The trainees learnt vocations such as tailoring, hair dressing, Auto Mechanic, Auto Electrician, Photography, Soap Making, Catering, Computer and Aluminum works. The beneficiaries were also supported with start-up kits to help them set up their businesses after they completed their training.
Figure 4: Presentation of Start-up Kits to Beneficiaries of the SMILE Project Vocational training at Etemahi’s Palace Ajaka
Provision of Agricultural Inputs: In order to boost the agricultural potentials of the households in the project communities, the household heads and caregivers were supported with improved varieties of seeds such as: High quality protein maize, soya beans, pro-vitamin A cassava, Orange flesh sweet potatoe vines, Oil palm seedlings, coconut seedlings, orange seedlings and Mango seedlings. The table below shows the distribution of these inputs to beneficiaries:
|Agric Inputs Distribution Table|
|YEAR||Variety of Crops||Male||Female||Total|
|2018||Orange Flesh Sweet Potato||9||137||146|
|2018||High Quality Protein Maize||14||349||416|
Figure 5: Presentation of Agricultural inputs to Beneficiaries at Ajaka and Odolu Communities by the HES Officer
- Protection: Protection as a thematic area on the SMILE project recorded the following achievements
Facilitation of Birth Registration for Vulnerable Children: At baseline, most of the children in the households enrolled on the SMILE Project had no birth certificates. JDPC Idah collaborated with the National Population Commission to facilitate the registration and provision of birth certificates to 3864 children in Ajaka and Odolu communities in Igalamela/Odolu LGA of Kogi state.
- Psychosocial Support: Psychosocial support activities were conducted during the course of the project and these include: Kids/Youth Club meetings for children of different age grades, counseling for older VC and adolescent girls club. A total of 4010 children were served with these activities respectively during the course of the project.
During kids clubs activities, children engage in recreation activities such as games, drama, quiz, debates riddles and jokes
Counseling support was also provided by trained community volunteers and other project staff for children who were identified with special needs.
Figure 7: Vulnerable Children at Ajaka and Odolu Communities engaged in Recreational Activities during Kids/Youth Club.
- Education: In the area of education, the following activities were conducted:
Educational Block Grant: JDPC Idah collaborated with 4 schools during the course of the project and provided educational materials (school desks and laboratory equipments) to the schools who in turn granted school fees waivers for selected children from most vulnerable households in Ajaka and Odolu Communities A total of 568 children (M=220, F=348) benefitted from this intervention.
- School Visit: JDPC Idah staff and community volunteers conduct routine visits to the schools were the project beneficiaries are enrolled. During these visits the staff/volunteers interact with the teachers and school children to assess the progress of the children.
- School Performance Assessment: This was conducted on termly basis by the volunteers and staff to assess the child’s performance in school. The Education performance assessment tool was used by the teachers to provide necessary feedbacks about the educational performance and needs of the children. The activity helped us to identify some of the challenges affecting the children and these were resolved by the project monitoring team.
Project Monitoring and Evaluation: JDPC Idah project management team conducted routine field visits to the field to provide technical assistance to community volunteers across all the thematic areas of intervention. Routine home visits are conducted to selected vulnerable households to assess the quality of work done by volunteers. These monitoring visits provided relevant feedbacks that helped in making sound decisions for better programming outcomes. In addition to these visits, monthly review meetings were held to assess the quality of work done by the community volunteers across all the thematic areas by checking through the service forms to ensure that all services provided by the volunteers were need based and age appropriate. The review meeting was also used as an avenue to set targets for the new month.
Figure 9: Facilitation by the P.M and M&E Officer during Monthly Review Meeting
Lesson Learnt: The following lessons were learnt from the various interventions carried out during the SMILE project
- Active Case Finding in Communities revealed hidden cases of malnutrition: The Project demonstrated that through active case finding in the communities, some hidden cases of malnutrition existed in most rural communities were identified and linked to appropriate care. Some of these children would have died of malnutrition while the people may attribute their death to some superstitious beliefs that could have threatened the peace of the community.
- Support Groups as a veritable Tool in Behaviour Change: The establishment of Community-Infant and Young Child Feeding support groups in the communities was a very effective tool in changing the beliefs and attitudes of the people on exclusive breastfeeding for children between 0-6 month, it also increased the knowledge of the people about giving newly born children colostrum.
- Need for More collaborative Approach from stakeholder to address Gender Based Violence in our Communities: Gender based violence is still a major challenge that needs more sensitization and awareness creation in most rural communities. Several forms of abuse exist and the victims (women and girls) still do not have the courage to come out and speak against this because of some socio-cultural beliefs that exists in these communities. This problem requires a more collaborative approach from NGOs, FBOs, Government, Traditional institutions and other stakeholders so as to address this challenge.