The Ministry of Health (MOH) has successfully completed the third phase of its Strong With Breast Milk Only (SWBO) project, designed to promote exclusive breastfeeding among children aged 0 to 6 months.

A two-day review session was held to assess the project’s effectiveness and plan for the future. Participants included Social Mobilization Coordinators, District Nutritionists, and Radio Managers from all 16 districts of Sierra Leone. Representatives from UNICEF, the Health Education Program, and the Directorate of Food and Nutrition also participated.

Harold Thomas, Project Manager from the MOH’s Health Education Program, outlined the review’s objectives: to strengthen understanding of the SWBO campaign among district participants, brainstorm the project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and radio programming strategy, and develop feasible work plans for improved implementation.

Senior Health Education Officer Ibrahim Sorie Koroma emphasized the importance of optimal infant and young child feeding practices for child health. He highlighted statistics on child mortality and the link between under-nutrition and child development. Koroma stressed that sub-optimal breastfeeding, particularly the lack of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months, contributes significantly to child deaths and illnesses.

In Sierra Leone, only 54.1% of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, and only 30% continue breastfeeding up to 24 months. Koroma attributed this to a lack of support from families, communities, and workplaces.

To address these challenges, the MOH partnered with UNICEF to launch a three-phase community radio program across all 16 districts. The program aims to influence attitudes and behavior change among caregivers, mothers, families, and male partners.

District participants presented success stories, challenges, and recommendations for the next phase of the SWBO project.