Multi-country analysis of child nutrition programs reveals limited improvements

April 2011

A recent special supplement of Maternal and Child Nutrition published in April 2011 is devoted to “Repositioning Children’s Right to Adequate Nutrition in the Sahel” and contains situational analyses of infant and young child nutrition activities in six Sahelian countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. The authors of the series compiled, analyzed, and interpreted available information on infant and young child feeding, and the nutrition and health situation of children less than two years of age. Based on this information, the authors determined: (i) whether national policies and activities match international recommendations; (ii) where activities have been successful, and why; and (iii) how international agencies can assist in filling gaps to speed progress in improving the feeding practices and nutritional status of infants and young children in the region. 

Across countries, they noted significant progress in the following areas: promotion of exclusive breastfeeding; countries with vitamin A supplementation reaching more than 80 percent of children; inclusion of zinc supplements for diarrhea treatment; management of acute malnutrition; and the creation of national behavior change communication strategies. Gaps identified included: too few nutrition programs reaching national coverage; lack of adequate monitoring and evaluation to assess program effectiveness; ineffective dissemination and integration of research findings into program activities; a need to expand efforts to prevent and treat zinc deficiency and reduce iron deficiency and anemia; unsystematic integration of screening and treatment for severe acute malnutrition; failure, in some countries, to institute comprehensive approaches for the prevention of HIV transmission through breastfeeding; inconsistent use of nutrition indicators across the region; poor access to documentation of nutrition program activities; and a need for high-level support to promote multi-sectoral activities. In the series summary, the authors propose a comprehensive set of key actions for overcoming these gaps in order to reach the goal of ensuring adequate nutrition for 80 percent of children in the region.

Situational analysis of infant and young child nutrition activities in the Sahel – executive summary