Does Combining Infant Stimulation With Emergency Feeding Improve Psychosocial Outcomes for Displaced Mothers and Babies? A Controlled Evaluation From Northern Uganda


  • The authors thank UNICEF for funding this program and the initial part of the research evaluation; International Medical Corps staff in Uganda, particularly Grace Otto Lajul, for assistance in establishing the described programs; Learning through Play for permission to use their materials; Peter Cooper, Lynne Murray, Alan Stein, Sally McGregor, and Nurper Ulkuer for advice in the early stages; and Paul Bolton, Patricia Engle, and Atif Rahman for advice and early comments on this article. We thank Wietse Tol for his advice regarding the statistical analysis.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jodi Morris, World Health Organization, 20 Avenue Appia, Geneva 1211, Switzerland. Electronic mail may be sent to


Combined psychosocial and nutrition interventions improve the development of infants. However, there is a paucity of studies examining the effectiveness of such interventions in humanitarian settings. This article examines the impact of combining a group-based psychosocial intervention with an existing emergency feeding program for internally displaced mothers in Northern Uganda. The intervention consisted of mother and baby group sessions and home visits for mothers attending 3 emergency feeding centers. Psychosocial outcomes were compared with a contrast group of mothers who received nutritional support alone. The outcomes investigated were infant stimulation and maternal mood. After controlling for the effects of interview site and baseline scores, mothers in the intervention group (n = 70) showed greater involvement with their babies, more availability of play materials, and less sadness and worry at follow-up in comparison to the contrast group (n = 77). The intervention was acceptable to the mothers and easily taught. A proportion of the mothers chose to continue the intervention spontaneously with other mothers in their neighbourhoods. Further research needs to be done to validate these preliminary findings and explore the longer term impact on child growth and intellectual development as well as maternal mood.