|© UNICEF/ HQ00-0477/ Chalasani|
|A woman sifts grains of maize through her hand. Rabdure. Somalia.|
UNICEF nutritional priorities include:
Providing nutrition security and nutrition in emergencies
Young children and pregnant and lactating mothers are extremely vulnerable in emergencies. UNICEF’s foremost priority is to prevent death from starvation and disease and to reduce malnutrition by supporting and protecting breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding, therapeutic and supplementary feeding, providing essential micronutrients and feeding orphans. The long-term goal is always to work with communities to address the underlying problems that create these dire situations to prevent a future occurrence or to devise better coping strategies. In addition promotes maternal nutrition /prevents low birth weight, monitors growth and supports country-based programs.
Improving the nutritional status of pregnant women is essential to reduce maternal deaths, miscarriage, stillbirth and low birth weight. UNICEF focuses on the need to improve the status of women and to provide adequate nutrition, care and rest during pregnancy and breastfeeding. UNICEF is also working to prevent low birth weight in infants through the Low Birth Weight Prevention Initiative. This programme provides multi-micronutrient supplements for pregnant women and is being piloted in 11 countries.
Monitoring infant growth rates
Poor physical growth is linked closely to overall health and development, and affects a third of the world’s children. UNICEF works with governments and non-governmental organizations on a range of issues from growth monitoring to prevention and management of childhood illnesses. At this time, UNICEF supports growth monitoring in health facilities and communities in more than 40 countries, generating information that is used by the immediate care takers and local health workers to assess child growth, analyze the causes of any problems that exist, and determine necessary action.
Supporting community-based programmes
Families and communities are the key players in the battle against childhood malnutrition and must work together to assess, analyze and take action to solve any problems. UNICEF’s strategy is to empower community members to become their own agents of change. UNICEF's role is to work with governments to support participatory, community-based programmes focusing on children’s survival, growth and development.
The Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition programme in South India and the Iringa Programme in Tanzania are among the largest and most well known community-based child survival, growth and development programmes. Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Ghana, Niger, Oman, Brazil and others are working on similar programmes.
Infant and child feeding and care
UNICEF works to promote, protect and support immediate postpartum and exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, with continued breastfeeding and age-appropriate complementary feeding for up to 2 years or longer, and to educate families about care and feeding practices. The end goal: to empower all women to to feed their children in a manner that will help them achieve their full potential. UNICEF approaches this issues based on the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding[link] that includes two major ongoing global programmes areas -- the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – as well as additional global, national, health system, and community efforts.
Delivering vital micronutrients
Micronutrients enhance the nutritional value of food and have a profound impact on a child’s development and a mother’s health. UNICEF works with governments to deliver key minerals and vitamins – iodine, iron, vitamin A and folate – through supplementation, fortification and promotion of micronutrient-rich diets. To achieve the goals of virtual elimination of vitamin A and iodine deficiencies, UNICEF collaborates with a diverse group of public and private organizations, forming alliances such as the Vitamin A Global Initiative.
Nutrition and HIV
With HIV/AIDS, UNICEF’s focus is twofold: reducing mother-to-child transmission of the virus during breastfeeding and meeting the nutritional needs of those who are HIV positive or affected by HIV/AIDS, such as orphans and children living in households where family members have HIV. Strategies include providing voluntary, confidential testing and infant feeding counselling for pregnant women, helping governments develop infant and young child feeding policies with HIV guidelines, encouraging and supporting breastfeeding, and promoting optimal infant feeding in hospitals.
UNICEF's programmes in the area of child and maternal health, basic education, water and sanitation, and improved child protection contribute to the reduction of child malnutrition.