Clean mind makes for a healthy baby

Early moments matter - Mmera mpoyamba

Arnold Munthali
Estere Salimu with her healthy daughter, she made sure to eat nutritious foods when she was pregnant
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Munthali
18 August 2022

Chikondi Moses understands the importance of nutrition to unborn children. That’s why he made sure his wife got the food she needed when she became pregnant three years ago.  

“I wanted my wife to be healthy for her sake as well as the child’s,” says Moses, who lives in Dedza in central Malawi. “So I granted her every wish for food before and even after she gave birth.”

Although Malawi has made significant strides in reducing chronic malnutrition, stunting (low height for age) remains steady for children under-5 (boys 39 per cent) and (girls 32 per cent).

Stunting has a negative impact on children’s growth and wellbeing, with its effects persisting through a person’s life cycle and, on a wider scale, has implications for the country’s long-term development.

Moreover, inadequate infant and young child feeding practices are major contributors to acute and chronic malnutrition.

To combat the situation, UNICEF Malawi, with funding from UNICEF Finland.  has been promoting the importance of early childhood development (ECD), especially the first 1,000 days, as part of its Early Moments Matter - Mmera Mpoyamba programme.

The programme focuses on early childhood health, nutrition, care, and learning programmes.

Elizabeth Makawa, a nurse in the pediatric ward at Dedza District Hospital, explains the challenges facing pregnant women and lactating mothers
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Munthali
Elizabeth Makawa, a nurse in the pediatric ward at Dedza District Hospital, explains the challenges facing pregnant women and lactating mothers

It has conducted early childhood development advocacy and communication campaigns to promote positive parenting and responsive caregiving.

Elizabeth Makawa, a nurse in the paediatric ward at Dedza District Hospital, sees first-hand the challenges facing local pregnant women and lactating mothers.

“Most the children we admit are suffering from malaria, pneumonia, malnutrition. Currently, most admissions related to malnutrition concern children with congenital problems,” Makawa says.

Makawa says proper nutrition for women during and after pregnancy can go a long way in dealing with the challenges children face as they are developing.

“The development of a foetus is affected if a pregnant woman is not eating properly. Whatever she eats affects the child,” says Makawa.

“So, to have a healthy child, we need to engage the mother.”

Makawa says with proper guidance on nutrition, pregnant women can give birth to healthy babies. Information provided on breastfeeding, nutrition and hygiene at clinics for children under-5 also helps focus the attention of mothers on raising healthy children.

Moses, who has two children, adds that he learned a valuable lessons about the importance of a stress-free life of a pregnant woman, which he says is just as important as her physical health, if not more.

Equally important, he says, is the communication with an unborn child.

“We have learned that a child starts to hear things while still in the womb, so you need to talk to them to establish a bond with them,” Moses says.