The first 1000 days from conception to two years of age are critical to the health and development of a child. Adequate infant and young child nutrition (IYCN) is crucial for survival and long-term health and well-being. Approximately 45% of deaths of children under five years of age can be attributed to malnutrition , and are often associated with inappropriate feeding practices during the first years of life . The first two years of life provide a critical window of opportunity for ensuring children’s appropriate growth and development through optimal feeding. Many countries experience a sharp increase in the prevalence of malnutrition for this age group.
NI supports countries to implement their IYCN program in line with WHO/UNICEF recommended IYCF practices. This includes the timely initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding to the age of six months, introduction of solid, semi-solid and soft foods at 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding until 24 months of age, recommended minimum meal frequency and dietary diversity. NI also supports recommended practices such as responsive feeding, hand washing with clean water and soap, and safe food preparation and storage.
Some of NI’s support to IYCN programs includes a Micronutrient Powder (MNP) component to alleviate micronutrient malnutrition.
In Ethiopia, NI is supporting the nutrition department of the Federal and Regional ministries of health to ensure that the promotion of optimal breast feeding and complementary feeding among infant and young children age 0-23 months is well integrated into the government’s comprehensive community-based nutrition (CCBN) program. The objective is to increase the quality, reach and coverage of the IYCN package of interventions delivered by the Health Extension Workers (HEWs) to caregivers of children 0-23 months of age by using the existing government health extension program (HEP). Specifically, NI is strengthening the capacity of woreda and health center staff, HEWs and selected model mothers to:
These activities, carried out in 92 woredas across six regions,are being implemented in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health at all levels, and five implementing NGOs (Relief society of Tigray, Amhara Development Association, Mothers and Children Multi - sectoral Development Organization in Oromia, Terepeza Development Association in SNNP; and Emory University in Afar and Benishangul Gumuz regions). NI support to IYCN in Ethiopia began in 2012 and is ongoing.
 Black RE et al. Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet. 2013; 382(9890):427-451
 Sankar MJ, et al. Optimal breastfeeding practices and infant and child mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatr. 2015 Dec;104(467):3-13
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