By Maria Goretti, Nutrition Officer, KRC Uganda, Kyaka II Refugee Settlement.
Photo: Care group volunteers being trained by KRC staff in the VSLA methodology in Byabakora Zone
The ‘Care Group model’ is an acclaimed public health approach primarily used in international development to improve maternal and child health and nutrition outcomes through peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Care Groups promote improved infant nutrition, hygiene, adherence to full vaccination and exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. A Care Group is usually a group of 10 to 15 people.
Besides improving nutrition health outcomes, lessons learned from the implementation of the Care Group Model by KRC Uganda and Save the Children in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda reveal that Care Groups have developed stronger commitments to create solutions to community challenges through group collaborative efforts. In Byabakora Zone, 20 Care Groups have started up Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). Wamana Kunyongesha (Kiswahili translation for Breast Feeding Mothers) is one Care Group that started a VSLA in 2021. From the original membership of 16 women, the group enrolled more members to make 28 members in order to increase their financial pool. According to Jolly Murihano, the saving and loans groups has improved group cohesion and impetus to do their voluntary role of Care Groups.
“When we are financially empowered, we are motivated to do our community work even better. We are also motivated to live exemplary lives”, Jolly says.
Group members of Wamana Kunyongesha Care Group testify that through their accumulated savings and loans, they are able to support their small business, acquire assets, hire land to do agriculture, improve their household food and income security. As a result of financial independence and status in the community, their work to create awareness and advocate for improved infant nutrition, hygiene, adherence to full vaccination and exclusive breastfeeding comes in handy than ever before.