A new United Nations-backed project is being launched today in Malawi to tackle stunting, which affects nearly one million children under the age of five in the southern African nation.
The stunting prevention project is supported by the Government, as well as the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other members of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, and funded by the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) at a cost of $10 million.
It will be carried out in Ntchisi district in Malawi's central region and reach 66,000 mothers and children over three-and-a-half years of age, according to a joint WFP/CIFF press release.
The project is designed to reduce stunting in the district by 5 to 10 per cent as well as build evidence for the best ways of tackling the problem, which is mainly due to recurrent food insecurity, poor dietary diversity and repeated illness.
Malawi's food security is currently deteriorating following low crop production as a result of long dry spells and floods and high food prices.
Now, during the height of the "lean season," the months before March when the next harvest is due, WFP is providing food assistance to more than 1.8 million Malawians.
Evidence shows the potential to make the greatest difference in the lives of children lies in the crucial 1,000 days between conception and two years of age.
The project complements the global SUN initiative established in 2010 to accelerate global progress on undernutrition and particularly on preventing stunting. Malawi was the world's first country to launch SUN and the 1,000 Special Days initiative in 2011.
"WFP's focus on prevention of stunting through right food at the right time and beyond is very exciting," says WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama.
"Through strong partnerships, multi-sector engagement, a strong evidence-based approach and IT [information technology], we want to show the world that we can and must address stunting."
The project involves 13 core nutrition interventions including the provision of complementary feeding, the management of acute malnutrition and safe hygiene practices. A specialized, ready-to-use product, Nutributter, will be provided to all registered children aged 6 to 23 months.
Undernourished children are more likely to have low educational grades than healthy children. This makes them less qualified for work, reducing their income-earning potential in adulthood.
Following its launch in Malawi, the project will be introduced to Mozambique later in the year.