Child Food Poverty Brief

Key drivers of malnutrition among children 6 - 23 months

A mother feeds her child nutritious porridge in rural Lilongwe using a spoon and bowl provided by UNICEF
UNICEF Malawi/2023/Corporate Media


Between 20141 and 20202, Malawi has made significant stride in reducing the burden of undernutrition such as stunting (from 42.4% to 35.5%), wasting (from 3.8% to 2.6%), and underweight (16.7% to 12.8%) even though 60.5% of children experience multidimensional poverty3. This reduction provides evidence that Malawi has the potential to reduce all forms of malnutrition with the right nutrition investment.

Even with the measurable decline in undernutrition, continued efforts are needed to address all forms of malnutrition. The results from the 2019/20 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) revealed worsening of indicators related to diets of children below the age of two, with a decrease in exclusively breastfed children from 70% in 2013/14 to 64% in 2019/20.

In addition, the minimum dietary diversity (MDD) reduced from 27% to 17% over the same period. The minimum meal frequency (MMF) and minimum acceptable diet (MAD) have also decreased from 47% to 37% and from 14% to 9%, respectively.

Furthermore, approximately 5.4 million people in Malawi face food insecurity, which is a remaining challenge due to recurrent climatic and epidemic-related shocks and hazards, widespread poverty, over-dependence on subsistence rainfed maize production and consumption, and high population growth4. The global food and nutrition crisis has been compounded by conflict in Ukraine, the devaluation of the local currency by 25% (Kwacha) high food inflation, and the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing already vulnerable children into unprecedented levels of food poverty and nutrition insecurity.

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