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Improving Maternal and Child Nutrition

©2013 Valerie Caldas, Courtesy of Photoshare

The Challenge

A pregnant woman who is malnourished is more likely to give birth to a malnourished baby. Her baby is also at higher risk of dying due to the dangerous effects of malnutrition. The mother, herself, is also at greater risk of death during childbirth, especially if she is anemic.

Children are at the greatest risk for malnutrition during their first 1,000 days—or from conception to their second birthday. Proper nutrition during this critical development stage can mean the difference between life and death. 

For children who survive, malnutrition often leads to lifelong damage including an increased risk of blindness and mental and physical developmental delays. These children are also susceptible to common childhood diseases like diarrhea and measles.

 

Our Solution

Helen Keller International targets young children and their mothers with proven Essential Nutrition Actions that provide the right nutrition support at the time it is most needed.  In many developing nations, harmful feeding practices sometimes based on local beliefs exist alongside poor hygiene and sanitation conditions.

In the developing world, children under five and pregnant and lactating women are at greatest risk of the devastating effects of malnutrition, which can often lead to death.

Our programs educate women about the best nutrition practices for every stage—from the best foods to eat for a healthy pregnancy, to the value of breastfeeding from their child’s first day through their second birthday to protect them from life-threatening infections, to choosing nutrient-rich foods for their children once they reach the crucial six month mark. Our programs also engage husbands and other family members to help ensure these positive nutrition practices are kept for years to come.  In addition, we provide education and resources to improve daily hygiene and sanitation in impoverished communities.

The ARCH Project 

Helen Keller International’s Assessment & Research on Child Feeding (ARCH) project is investigating how food products for infants and young children are promoted. In the first three years of the project, ARCH conducted research in Cambodia, Nepal, Senegal, and Tanzania on the availability, promotion, and consumption of foods consumed by infants and young children under two years of age, including breastmilk substitutes and commercially produced complementary foods and snack foods. Now also working in Indonesia, ARCH facilitates use of research findings for decision-making at the global and national level about policies and programs to improve the nutritional status of infants and young children.

Good Nutrition for Nepal

USAID's Suaahara II (Good Nutrition) program works closely with the government of Nepal to strengthen policies and programs that will improve the health and nutritional status of women and children. Although the country has made significant progress reducing deficiencies in vitamin A, iron and iodine, malnutrition rates remain high. More than 40% of children under five suffer from stunting, 11% from wasting and 29% are underweight.