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One in two childrenh risk being stunted in central Malawi. To address this alarming problem of undernutrition, WFP has launched an innovative Prevention of Stunting project to improve the nutritional well-being of young children and their mothers.
This time of year, Ntchisi district in central Malawi appears green and bountiful, with traditional crops beginning to flower as the April harvest draws closer. This apparent abundance, however, masks an astonishing stunting problem. In Ntchisi, almost one in every two children under five years old is stunted.
Stunting results from chronic undernutrition and lack of vital micronutrients during the first 1,000 days of life, from conception to a child's second birthday. It takes visible form in children who are too short for their age but also has more severe, often irreversible effects on cognitive development and poor health.
Anesi Jailosi, a 22-year-old mother of two living in Ntchisi, first learned of stunting from visits to health clinics during her pregnancy. As farmers, she and her husband are able to provide enough food for themselves and their two children year round. But Anesi knows that stunting prevention means her children must be both well-fed and well-nourished.
"I try to prepare nutritious meals with different foods for my children ever since I learned about stunting, but it's not always possible because it can be expensive and I'm not always sure about the nutrition of some foods," Anesi explained. She fears her children might not grow-up healthy as she can't always provide foods that are high in nutrients.
Anesi's fear was replaced by hope in December 2013 when she and her 11-month old daughter, Trinity, were registered in WFP's Prevention of Stunting project. In January, Anesi began receiving monthly distributions of a highly nutritious, ready-to-use supplement called Nutributter to enrich her mphala (porridge) for her daughter. Trinity will receive the supplement until she is two years old. Nutributter, similar to other animal source foods, contains micronutrients essential for growth and good health.
Anesi also benefits from WFP's work with partners in Ntchisi to scale up 13 core nutrition interventions including breastfeeding promotion, healthcare services and agricultural development. Anesi attends monthly meetings organised by a network of community health volunteers (care groups) where she learns about nutritious local foods, safe motherhood, health and family planning and shares knowledge and good practices with other mothers on feeding their young children.
"My dream is that I can learn enough to always be able to provide nutritious, diverse meals at home and that my children grow to reach their full potential."
WFP's Prevention of Stunting project, implemented by its partner World Vision, uses a solar-powered monitoring and evaluation system to track the progress of all pregnant or nursing women and children under two years old in Ntchisi.
Thanks to a US$10 million investment from the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the project will run over a period of 3.5 years. It is part of the global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, serving as an example for further nutrition efforts in Malawi and around the globe.