A “good practices bowl” for a better diet in infants and young children
20,000 illustrated feeding bowls have been distributed by UNICEF and its partners in the regions most affected by malnutrition to improve consumption, quality, consistency, and quantity in the diets of children aged 6–23 months.
The morning silence fills Ankaranabo, a village of 2,000 inhabitants located fifteen minutes away from the town of Bekily, in the south of Madagascar. The fog has just begun to lift, while the cold of winter is biting. At the entrance of the village, the community nutrition site is identified by a signpost. In front of the site, a few women with their young children nestled in their arms are sitting quietly on a mat.
Among them, Ravaonandrasana Florette quickly stands out by her determined attitude. Florette is a community nutrition worker in the village. Up on her feet, she washes dishes for today’s participants. A strange container draws everyone’s attention: a feeding bowl with drawings of various foods on the rim, measuring units etched on the surface and accompanied by a slotted spoon.
"This feeding bowl is designed for children aged 6–23 months. The drawings are meant to remind parents of the different food groups that their children should be eating from, while the measuring units help identify the correct portion size for each age group. Finally, the slotted spoon is used to ensure the food’s consistency," explains Florette. "Instead of watching a regular cooking demonstration twice a week, mothers can put what they have learnt into practice straight onto their children's plates", she continues.
That morning, some of the mothers went to support their children who are taking the end-of-year exam at the local state primary school. While waiting for their return, Vanonteza, one of the participants, assists Florette and helps her prepare lunch. "Today, we are cooking rice with tomatoes, onions, lentils, green vegetables and oil. We keep the papaya for dessert", explains Vanonteza.
All together against malnutrition
In Madagascar, 42 per cent of children under five years of age suffer from stunting, also called chronic malnutrition. This is due to the poor nutritional practices of mothers, infants, and young children. The illustrated feeding bowl was introduced by UNICEF and its partners to improve the diet of children aged 6-23 months. Mothers and caregivers are the primary targets of this effort, which is being carried out in a clear and simple way. The reminders on the children's bowls are designed to encourage the adoption of these good practices.
The other mothers arrive around midday at the community nutrition site. "Lunch is ready! Children, form a single line in front of me so that I can wash your hands", asks Florette, beads of sweat gathering on her forehead under the sun. She then starts to ladle the meal, asking each mother the age of her child and the corresponding food portion. "All of these ingredients are nutritious and easily available in the region. There has been enough rain this year and the harvest is good, so it is important to take advantage of this situation to vary and diversify the food we give our children", she concludes.
Consecutive years of severe drought have wiped out harvests and seriously affected access to food in the regions of Madagascar’s Great South. Although the nutritional situation has improved since 2022, 340,000 children will still need nutritional treatment in these regions in 2023, particularly those suffering from acute malnutrition, known as "wasting".
Using these innovative bowls for prevention purposes, UNICEF aims to reach at least 16,000 mothers of young children aged 6–23 months by providing access to quality nutritional activities. "This illustrated bowl is very useful for us because we can easily apply all the advice given by Florette and the health workers", says Menia, a 20-year-old mother, after feeding her nine-month-old son.
Note: this programme was made possible thanks to financial support from the Committee for UNICEF Switzerland and USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.