UNICEF works to improve infant and young child nutrition.
Improving nutrition, particularly of children and women, is increasingly recognized as imperative for reducing poverty, promoting sustainable social and economic development, and narrowing inequities.
Because the poorest families in Moldova struggle to provide sufficient food, one third of poor women and children are anaemic.
Poor maternal nutrition before conception and during pregnancy threatens the chances of a safe delivery and a healthy baby, and can result in developmental delays that undermine a child’s potential. The rates of anaemia in women has fallen from 40 per cent in 2005, but it still affects every fourth pregnant woman in Moldova.
Poor children are twice as likely to be anaemic.
Stunting, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and other forms of under-nutrition reduce a child’s chance of survival and hinder optimal growth and development.
Under-nutrition, in particular in the first 1,000 days, is associated with suboptimal brain development. It may have long-lasting harmful consequences for cognitive ability, school performance, and future earnings.
The most recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) shows that six per cent of children under five in Moldova are stunted, or too short for their age.
Poor children are stunted nearly four times more often than children from the richest quintile.
Breastfeeding represents one of the key pillars of nutrition, ensuring a young child’s survival, optimal growth, and development. Although 98 per cent of children in the country have been breastfed at some point in time, only 36 per cent of children were being exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life in 2012, down from 46 per cent in 2005.
Iodine deficiency is particularly damaging during early pregnancy and childhood, yet it is easily preventable through the widespread use of iodization of salt.
Less than half of households in Moldova consume iodized salt.
UNICEF in Moldova aims to ensure that every child has the best possible nutritional start in life.
As part of our work to strengthen and improve health systems, we support the development of legal and regulatory frameworks that promotes breastfeeding; the national programme to prevent iron and folic acid deficiency; and the integration of child feeding counselling into antenatal and primary healthcare.
We have supported the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in Moldova since 2000, to ensure that all maternities, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support. Today, more than two in three maternities are baby friendly, compared to only 13% in 2000.
The number of Baby-Friendly Hospitals increased more than five times.
UNICEF also supported the policy on the provision of iron and folic acid supplements to pregnant women as part of antenatal care, and provided policy advice to ensure full availability of iodized salt. This resulted in gradual improvements in the nutritional status of pregnant women and better birth outcomes.
Iron and folic acid supplements were introduced in the basic package of health services in 2005.