Sierra Leone: Getting beyond nutrition as ‘a women’s issue’

Richard Mallett and Lisa Denney

Type: Briefing Paper, Sierra Leone

Organisation: ODI

Country: Sierra Leone

Date: 15/09/2014

Full summary

This briefing paper demonstrates how childcare is influenced by a range of household actors in Sierra Leone, and sets out what efforts to prevent malnutrition can do to engage with this reality.


Key messages: 


  • Promoting good child nutrition must go beyond dissemination of infant and young child feeding practices to engage with key influences on mothers’ behaviour.
  • ‘Exclusive’ breastfeeding is rarely exclusive, with traditional remedies frequently given to infants.
  • Decision-making around food distribution, household finances and when to stop breastfeeding is deeply gendered, influencing the ability of women to act on knowledge about appropriate feeding practices. 
  • These social conditions that sustain malnutrition are exacerbated during ‘lean seasons’, when there are greater labour demands, compromised sanitation, and limited coping mechanisms.