02 July 2024, Gweru – Aimed at coming up with Social Behaviour Change strategies for critical health and development issues in Zimbabwe and beyond, Midlands State University in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), JSI and Takunda Project attended the Africa Social and Behaviour Change (SBC) virtual summit, hosted by the African Society for Social and Behaviour Change.

 Themed, ‘Cultivating Resilience and Relevance: Harnessing Community Insights and Innovation for SBC Impact in Africa’, the summit provided an invaluable platform to deliberate on sustainable ways of developing SBC strategies for critical health and development issues, such as active notification of child births and birth registration, Exclusive Breast Feeding, parental involvement in Early Childhood Development & Education (ECDE), and ways of creating open defecation-free communities.

Speaking during the summit, MSU Research and Innovation Division – Executive Director, Professor Laurine Chikoko said it is important that researchers link with development practitioners to conduct research that can inform interventions. 

The summit had several presentations, each focusing on different sustainable SBC strategies for critical health and development issues.

A presentation on social and behavioural determinants of parental involvement in ECDE for SBC strategy and plan development in Zimbabwe by MSU Lecturer, Dr. N. Manzunzu highlighted the pivotal role played by ECDE in laying a strong foundation for children’s future academic life. 

“ECDE is crucial for promoting optimal development, preparing children for future academic success, fostering social and emotional well-being, and laying the foundation for lifelong learning,” said Dr. Manzunzu. 

Given the pivotal role played by ECDE, Dr. Manzunzu indicated that investing in ECDE programs with parental involvement is key for building a strong and inclusive society.

Presenting on ways of leveraging ubuntu in SBC approaches in addressing open defecation in Zimbabwe, Chairperson for the department of Community Studies, Dr. P. Chadambuka and her co-presenter, Mrs. G. Madzudzo emphasised the need to come up with innovative concepts and practices in SBC that are tailored to the dynamic culture and context of African people. 

“Ubuntu approach can be harnessed to realise open defecation free communities in Zimbabwe,” indicated Dr. Chadambuka.

Deliberating on Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF), a practice of feeding newborns exclusively breast milk throughout the first six months of their lives, MSU Senior Lecturer under the department of Psychiatry Dr. J. Mutambara explained the significance of EBF in lowering infant mortality and morbidity. 

“EBF is a vital healthy strategy since it enables the decrease of new born morbidity, mortality, lowering the risk of health conditions such as infections, pneumonia, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes mellitus, malocclusion, and diarrhoea,” said Dr. Mutambara. 

With EBF standing at 42% in Zimbabwe, 53.5% in the Sub-Saharan region and 38% globally, Dr. Mutambara said that there is a need for vigorous campaigns to increase the EBF prevalence rate to 50% globally by 2025 and 70% by 2030.

The summit provided an important opportunity for stakeholders to discuss sustainable strategies to address pressing health and development challenges facing communities in Zimbabwe and beyond.

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