Despite Egypt’s significant progress in reducing infant and child mortality in the last decades, high levels of child malnutrition still persist across the country. With almost one in every three children under five stunted (some 2.3 million ), Egypt is one of the 20 countries in the world with the highest number of children suffering from chronic malnutrition . Child malnutrition was deteriorating even at times when Egypt experienced rapid economic growth and within the current political transition and economic crisis in Egypt and the region, it is expected that the malnutrition
Since 1990, the overall prevalence of underweight children has not improved , and stunting which remained stagnant at 23% from 2000 to 2005 increased to 29% in 2008.
In addition, 11% of infants are born with low birth weight4. Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth has not improved during the last decade, and stands at 57%.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also affects the well-being of children. Only 79% of households consume iodized salt, leaving more than 429,000 newborns every year unprotected from iodine deficiency disorders, adversely affecting their learning abilities and future development. 40% of women and approximately 50% of children under 5 are suffering from anemia caused by iron deficiency. Evidence shows that proper nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of a child gives him/her a healthy start at life. Poor nutrition during this period leads to irreversible consequences such as stunted growth and impaired cognitive development. Malnourished children are therefore less likely to develop to their full potential.
In addition malnourished girls often become malnourished mothers, at risk of having low birth weight children, thus perpetrating the vicious cycle of malnutrition. The prevention of chronic malnutrition is vital to reduce the current rate of child mortality, to respect and protect child rights and fulfil the potential of future generations.
UNICEF’s InterventionsUNICEF’s nutrition interventions are focused primarily on the window of opportunity that represents the 1000 days between conception and the child’s second birthday. Based on a Landscape Analysis conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), UNICEF’s three main strategic interventions are:
- Building the institutional and human capacity of MoHP to provide high quality nutrition interventions and services such as growth monitoring, micronutrient supplementation, and to promote breastfeeding as well as other recommended child feeding practices.
Some of the specific interventions include:
- Initiating community based nutrition programmes in fourteen villages in Upper Egypt, focusing on the most deprived and vulnerable populations to minimize disparities.
- Establishing a Nutrition Surveillance System in in seven governorates to identify high risk children and accelerate nutrition interventions, through early warning and real time information.
- Supporting the Vitamin A supplementation programme for women and children.
- Implementing a community awareness and social mobilization campaign to address low iodized salt consumption in seven governorates.
Programme Expected Results- Strengthened capacity of the MoHP to deliver evidence-based nutrition interventions and services and provide effective coordination of nutrition polices and programmes at the national level.
- Community Health Workers have the knowledge and skills to advise families on child nutrition and feeding practices.
- Thirty selected health facilities, are certified as Baby Friendly facilities, and are actively promoting breastfeeding, serving more than 150,000 children.
- Infant and Young Child Feeding practices improved in families through a community based nutrition programme.
- A comprehensive Nutrition Surveillance System is operational and provides regular and accurate information on the nutritional status of children and women.
- Ninety percent of households consume iodized salt in seven high risk governorates.