Mamorena took an IYCN workshop to learn more about infant nutrition.
The Infant & Young Child Nutrition Project
Mamorena Namane has lived in rural Lesotho all her life. There, malnutrition is a fact of life, and Mamorena watched her first child grow up weak and sickly.
When Mamorena became pregnant for a second time, she reached out to the PATH-led Infant & Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) Project for help. Trained as a community health worker, Mamorena participated in an IYCN workshop to learn more about infant nutrition, including the importance of breastfeeding and the consequences of certain cultural practices, like delaying breastfeeding for as long as a week after birth. She applied those lessons to her own life and began carrying them to her neighbors.
Mamorena has made it her mission to show families how to keep their children healthy. And her second child—a big, healthy son who was breastfed from the day of birth—is a visible symbol of the impact of simple changes.
Active from 2006 to 2012, the IYCN Project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, aimed to give children a chance for healthy and productive lives. Working with governments and other global and local partners, the project prevented malnutrition and improved nutrition for mothers, infants, and young children by focusing on the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
A window of opportunity
Good nutrition early on is the foundation for a healthy and productive life as an adult. Children who get adequate nutrients during their first 1,000 days are more likely to be healthy and to complete their schooling, and they even perform better while they are in school. The benefits last into adulthood. Well-nourished children earn more money as adults and thus are in a better position to have healthy, well-nourished children themselves. It’s a cycle of stability.
Without proper nutrition, children suffer devastating consequences: more frequent and more serious childhood illnesses, stunted physical and mental development, even death. Undernourished children are far more likely to die from common illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia. Malnutrition is frequently an underlying cause of child deaths in poor countries and is a major contributor to the burden of disease worldwide.
But during the critical 1,000-day window between birth and age two—as an infant becomes a toddler—there is an opportunity to turn a child’s life around.
Low-cost measures can save children
Low-cost measures to improve nutrition practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life, can save children’s lives. Through the IYCN Project, PATH worked in 16 countries to promote and support these practices. Our activities included assessing need, guiding policy, promoting behavior change, mobilizing communities, training health care workers, monitoring activities, and sharing good practices. Some highlights of our work with IYCN follow:
- In Bangladesh, we worked with partners to reach 55,000 young children to improve complementary feeding practices and encourage the use of micronutrient powders to prevent anemia.
- In Ethiopia, we trained agriculture extension workers to offer nutrition counseling to caregivers, conduct cooking demonstrations using nutritious food from household gardens, and refer malnourished children to appropriate nutrition services.
- In Haiti, we strengthened the ability of health workers to provide infant feeding counseling for HIV-positive mothers upon receiving their babies’ first HIV test results.
- In Malawi, our work was adapted to train community nutrition workers in improved feeding practices as part of the country’s Scaling Up Nutrition strategy.
- In Nigeria, we played a key role in the country’s adoption of the 2010 World Health Organization guidelines on HIV and infant feeding. A new policy promoting breastfeeding as a national strategy aims to increase children’s chances of surviving free of HIV.
- In Zambia’s Kabwe District, we strengthened links between communities and health facilities. As a result, community volunteers and health facility workers are working to prevent malnutrition and offer consistent feeding advice for caregivers.
Photo: Christine Demmelmaier.