Although improvements in health service delivery and economic growth in Albania have contributed to better food security and overall nutrition, children still face malnutrition.
According to the Albania Demographic Health Survey (DHS) of 2010, 19 per cent of children under five have stunted growth and 22 per cent are overweight and obese. Further surveys from 2012 and 2013 indicate insufficient iodine among school age children and pregnant women.
Undernutrition is more than mere food insecurity. It exists in food-secure communities. Inadequate knowledge of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, poor child care and inadequate access to health and other social services are some of its causes.
As per UNICEF and World Health Organization guidelines, optimal young child feeding practices include initial breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two and beyond, together with safe, age appropriate feeding of solid, semi-solid and soft food starting at the age of six months.
According to DHS, 43 per cent of children in Albania start breastfeeding within the first hour after birth and only 39 per cent are exclusively breastfed.
Given the magnitude of the problem and the potential impact, allocated resources to young child feeding in Albania are still small.
The importance of an intersectoral approach to child malnutrition is not fully understood and is yet to translate into an ideal mix of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions.
Albania has a strong legislative framework for the marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes(BMS) to protect mothers and children from the unethical marketing practices of infant formula companies; and for Universal Salt Iodization, however law enforcement mechanisms need strengthening.