Progress On Stunting Prevention In Malawi
LILONGWE – An innovative stunting-prevention programme in Malawi is showing signs of positive results, according to a progress review taking place this week.
The programme was launched in January 2014 as a pilot in Ntchisi district. It targets the first 1,000 days of life - from conception to the age of two - which is a critical period in a child’s development during which stunting can be prevented.
Malawi has one of the highest rates of stunting in Africa, affecting 42 percent of children.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that since the programme started, fewer children are falling into malnutrition in Ntchisi district. Mothers are also reporting that their children are maintaining good health and experiencing sickness less frequently as they adopt good feeding practices.
"This model is an excellent example of multi-sectoral and districtwide action to reduce stunting, which is generating new evidence on ways to tackle the problem in the country,” said the District Commissioner for Ntchisi, Malango Botomani.
“It’s very encouraging to see the results so far,” said Georgina Fekete, Nutrition Director at the British independent philanthropic organisation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) which invested US$10 million in the programme. “Evidence and experience shows that with the right nutrients and care early in life, a child’s brain and body are able to develop to their full potential, improving their health, education and future livelihoods. This is an investment in children, families and communities that lasts.”
The programme includes the provision of a nutrient-rich, fortified food supplement, the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition and a behavioural change campaign that targets both women and men, focusing on important health, hygiene and nutrition messages. Around 66,000 mothers and children will take part over a three-and-a-half year period and the programme aims to reduce child stunting by 5-10 percent.
The programme is managed by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in close collaboration with the Government of Malawi and other members of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in Malawi.
As part of the review mission, CIFF, WFP and other partners are assessing programme progress and considering changes necessary if the stunting reduction target is to be reached by 2017. During its review, the team is visiting programme sites in Ntchisi and meeting government officials.
"We hope lessons from this innovative programme will strengthen and inspire scale-up of effective food and nutrition security interventions. These high-impact field solutions need to be matched with national investment from across sectors if we are to see a Malawi with zero hunger and zero stunted children," said WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama.
The programme is also piloting innovative information technology solutions using real-time monitoring that facilitates quick follow-up with participating families.
The review comes on the heels of the recent launch of the Cost of Hunger in Africa study which found that Malawi experiences annual losses of nearly US$600 million due to the associated costs of child undernutrition. The study was led by the African Union Commission in partnership with the Government of Malawi, WFP, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. The data underscores that stunting is not just a health issue, but a social and economic issue and the solution must lie in diverse, high-impact nutrition interventions.
See video Stunting Solutions: Malawi’s Tall Order
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 75 countries.
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