A Good Nutrition Foundation for All
The first 1000 days from conception to two years of age are critical to the health and development of a child. If we are able to give children a good nutrition foundation, we are providing them with more opportunities to thrive, learn and contribute to their families, communities and nations throughout their lives.
How we can do this is clear. World Health Organization guidelines for feeding children during the first years of life addresses both exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding, prioritizing micro- and macro-nutrient density in foods, feeding frequency and food consistency, among other priorities. MI uses these guidelines to inform our programs so that we can give children the best start possible in life.
Our Maternal and Newborn Health programs emphasize support for early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding and good complementary feeding practices for children starting from six months of age.
Since they were first introduced by Canadian researcher Dr. Stan Zlotkin, multiple micronutrient powders (MMPs, also known by the name “Sprinkles”) have been used to boost the nutrition quality of complementary foods in young children by providing many of the micronutrients that are hard to find in the local diet.
We have built on our early pioneering experiences in scaling up the use of such powders with the governments of Guatemala and Bolivia. We have also worked with the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Haiti to pilot the feasibility of using them as an effective way of boosting micronutrient intake, especially iron, in children who are just learning to eat family foods.
MI conducted research with Peru’s Nutrition Research Institute on determining the optimal duration and frequency of MMNP use for anaemia and micronutrient deficiency control.
Community Management of Acute Malnutrition
When we successfully treat a child for severe acute malnutrition only to have them back on treatment again four months later because they’re not getting the ongoing community-based nutrition supports they need, we fail to break the dangerous and costly cycle of malnutrition and fail this child and family.
Not only do we have to stop this cycle, we must do everything we can to prevent children from slipping into severe acute malnutrition whenever possible.
MI’s main objectives are to improve the prevention of chronic malnutrition and improve capacity for community-based treatment of moderate acute malnutrition and prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
Leading Community Growth in Burkina Faso
MI is training health workers in Burkina Faso to lead community growth monitoring and also preparing them with the skills necessary to be able to support and encourage mothers to give the best possible available complementary foods. These health workers will show mothers how to use MNPs so they can fill the micronutrient gaps for their growing children at home.
When underweight children are identified, these health workers will provide extra support and counselling to prevent further declines; however, when a child is found with severe acute malnutrition, the health workers will also be equipped to refer them to treatment programs where they will receive ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF).
Banking on Preventing Malnutrition in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, MI is working to establish community-based grain banks that are run by local women’s groups. Mothers in the area contribute a portion of grains and then the women at the grain banks process and mill several local grains and legumes to create a flour with improved nutrient density. The improved grain bank flour is distributed at growth monitoring sessions in the rural communities and sold in the urban areas.
The program will also introduce MNPs, which can be added to complementary food made from the grain bank flour to improve upon the diet.
Health extension workers and Ethiopia’s famous “health development army” are complementing the grain bank initiatives with counselling and support for mothers and group demonstrations for mothers on how to prepare complementary foods and MNPS, and growth monitoring.
Good Global Practices
MI is also influencing global good practices for Infant and Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) through:
- Leadership positions on the global Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition Work Group (MIYCN) and the Home Fortification Technical Advisory Group (HF-TAG)
- Strategic research in IYCN micronutrient supplements
- Contributing to the translation and dissemination of research for policy and programs