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Nutrition

Maternal anemia, even moderate cases, increases the risk of dying during childbirth. Iron deficiency also contributes to poor birth outcomes and can reduce iron stores at birth, jeopardizing cognitive development and increasing the risk of child mortality. Moreover, stunting—a complex process that occurs from conception until a child’s second birthday—is due to inadequate infant and young child feeding and recurrent/chronic illness, and compromises adult height attainment, ability to learn, grade completion in school, productivity, and income.

MCSP advocates for greater attention to major and neglected barriers to optimal maternal and young child nutrition. Through different sectors and influential community members—such as men and grandmothers—we work to identify new channels to increase the reach and scale-up of nutrition interventions within countries. In this way, the Program provides specialty and selective nutrition expertise to USAID and priority countries to identify barriers to improving nutrition programming and integrating cost-effective solutions.

MCSP also continues work begun under USAID’s predecessor Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program to support maternal anemia prevention and control using an integrated package of interventions to address the major causes of anemia: nutritional deficiencies and parasitic infections due to malaria and soil-transmitted helminth infections. New to MCSP will be updated versions of the K4H Integrated Anemia Prevention and Control Toolkit with an emphasis on providing guidance and best practices on program implementation.

We support global learning on community-based distribution of iron-folic acid, identifying unaddressed breastfeeding problems leading to early introduction of food, assessing the problem of “junk food” consumption in developing countries, and improving dietary intake during pregnancy. Taking a “learning by doing” approach, MCSP integrates lessons learned from countries where we are integrating nutrition, and monitors the change in the uptake of key nutrition practices to further improve program implementation.

To download MCSP's nutrition fact sheet, click here.

Our Focus

Key Facts

  • 45% of child deaths are caused by undernutrition—including fetal growth restriction, suboptimal breastfeeding practices, stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies due to inadequate dietary intake and infections.
  • In 2011, stunting affected about 165 million children, and being overweight affected an estimated 43 million children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Diets low in fruits and high in salt intake account for nearly 7% of the global burden of disease.
  • An estimated 20% of maternal deaths are due to maternal iron deficiency anemia and stunting in women.