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STUDY: Scientists say this model can improve food security for caregivers of orphans, vulnerable children

July 4, 2022
STUDY: Scientists say this model can improve food security for caregivers of orphans, vulnerable children
A snip from the PLOS journal with an inset of Ifakara Health Institute researcher, Ms. Shraddha Bajaria, who participated in the study. GRAPHIC |IFAKARA/Coms.

Scientists from Ifakara Health Institute (Ifakara) and partner institutions have recommended adoption of a new household nutrition intervention model proven to improve food security among caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania.

The model, “household economic strengthening intervention” – simply referred to as “HES” – was successfully studied under a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Kizazi Kipya project’s “WORTH Yetu” coverage for five years – from 2016 to last year. Ifakara partner institutions in the study were Pact Tanzania and the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

Ifakara researcher, Ms. Shraddha Bajaria, was among scientists who conducted this longitudinal study on 132,583 caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), from 132,583 households who constituted all beneficiaries of the “WORTH Yetu” intervention (2016-2021) in Tanzania.

Ms. Bajaria’s roles included formal analysis, methodology, visualization, writing – reviewing & editing of the study paper published on the PLOS ONE journal on February 25, 2022. The study was based on data collected for the study in 81 district councils in 25 regions of Tanzania where the USAID Kizazi Kipya project was implemented.

Ms. Bajaria worked with colleagues: Amon Exavery, John Charles, Asheri Barankena, Epifania Minja, Jacob Mulikuza, Tumainiel Mbwambo, Amal Ally, Remmy Mseya, Levina Kikoyo, and Marianna Balampama – all from Pact Tanzania. Godfrey M. Mubyazi had joined the team from NIMR.

“The USAID Kizazi Kipya’s model of household economic strengthening for OVC caregivers was effective in improving food security and reducing household hunger in Tanzania. This underscores the need to expand WORTH Yetu coverage. Meanwhile, these results indicate a potential of applying the intervention in similar settings to address household hunger,” the scientists say in the abstract of their publication.

The scientists believe expanding WORTH Yetu coverage along with other services will reduce household hunger. WORTH Yetu are groups organized as part of household economic strengthening interventions, which empower parents and caregivers to have financial resources to meet their own needs and those of vulnerable children.

“Membership in WORTH Yetu was significantly effective in reducing household hunger among the caregivers: severe hunger dropped from 9.4% to 4.1%; moderate hunger dropped from 65.9% to 62.8%; and food security (i.e., little to no hunger households) increased from 25.2% to 33.1%.” the scientists reported in their study.

Findings worth noting from the study showed a reduced likelihood of being in severe hunger households, and moderate hunger households by 47% and 21%, respectively, and increased the likelihood of food security by 45% because of participation in WORTH Yetu. These findings were consistent with others showing positive impacts in food security attributable to participation in savings groups in Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda.

“According to the 2017–18 Household Budget Survey (HBS), about a quarter (26.4%) of Tanzania’s population is experiencing basic needs poverty, and 8.0% are extremely poor living below the food poverty line. This situation may be even worse for households caring for OVC, therefore underscoring the need for immediate poverty alleviation interventions and strategies to rescue these families” the scientist shared.

HES intervention has been identified as a poverty alleviation strategy in many populations and settings, and, like in this study, Ifakara, Pact Tanzania and NIMR scientists have tested and found it to be effective in addressing food insecurity among vulnerable populations in Tanzania.

However, the scientists also uncovered other factors with significant association with food security among caregivers. The factors include: advanced age in caregivers (increases the odds of belonging in little to no hunger households); caregiver’s household income (increase in caregiver’s household income may consequently improve food security); female gender’s positive impact on food security (male caregivers were significantly more likely to be in severe hunger households than their female counterparts also; and caregivers outside marital unions were more likely to experience food insecurity).

Other factors are: education (the higher the education, the higher the likelihood of being food secure); human settlement (caregivers living in urban areas were more likely to be in both moderate and severe hunger households); mental and physical disability (caregivers with these disabilities were more likely to experience moderate and severe household hunger); and health insurance access (caregivers with health insurance were more likely to be in food-secure households than those without insurance).

On the list of factors also is HIV status (caregivers living with HIV and those who did not disclose their HIV status were more likely to be in little to no hunger households, more likely to be in severe hunger households, but less likely to be in moderate hunger households than those who were HIV negative). Although with this factor, the scientist noted that; “The pattern of this observation was not clear, hence a need for further research to explore and explain the relationship.”

The USAID Kizazi Kipya project was funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).