On the spotlight: Better nutrition during child’s first 1,000 days

A mother and her baby in Niger. The country ranks as the worst place to be a mother, according to Save the Children's annual State of the World's Mothers report. Photo by: Stevie Mann / ILRI / CC BY-NC-SA

Breaking the cycle of chronic malnutrition affecting mothers and their children can boost efforts to improve maternal and child health around the world, new research from nongovernmental organization Save the Children says.

Save the Children released May 8 the latest edition of its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report. It zeros in on the need to ensure good nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which covers the start of a woman’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday.

The report identifies “low-cost solutions” it says could save the lives of some 1.3 million children every year: iron folate supplements, breast-feeding, complementary feeding during a child’s sixth to 23rd month, vitamin A supplements, zinc for diarrhea, and access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene options.

These solutions will help women have strong pregnancies and keep their babies healthy while in the uterus, upon birth and beyond, the report explains.

The importance of this 1,000-day window is increasingly being recognized by the development community. The United States, for one, has made the window a focus of its nutrition efforts in the developing world.

The Save the Children report proposes six ways the international community can promote good nutrition further during this critical window, as well as beyond:

  • Invest in the low-cost interventions identified in the report.

  • Invest in increasing the quantity and capacity of health workers, particularly those on the front lines such as community health workers.

  • Boost girls’ access to education and help keep more girls in school.

  • For donors, fulfill maternal health-related funding pledges and endorse the Scaling Up Nutrition movement.

  • Explore more private sector partnerships to improve nutrition for mothers and children.

  • Craft and implement better laws and policies related to families, such as the creation of a more supportive environment for breast-feeding.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders – emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.