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Martha Wood/Jhpiego


Maternal anemia, even in 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 during the first 1,000 days of life, 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, and productivity.

In collaboration with Ministries of Health and partners, MCSP focuses on evidence-based interventions to prevent and reduce all forms of malnutrition by integrating nutrition into reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health platforms.

We focus on addressing neglected barriers to optimal maternal, infant and young child nutrition to prevent all forms of malnutrition, including stunting. These include identifying and addressing challenges to exclusive breastfeeding, improving complementary feeding practices through the development of local recipes, and addressing “junk food” consumption in children less than two years of age within the context of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) programming. MCSP also addresses maternal nutrition and anemia during pregnancy through an integrated package, which includes iron-folic acid (IFA) supplementation. Taking a “learning by doing” approach, the Program uses global and local evidence to address these barriers through program implementation at the health facility and community level in USAID high-priority countries, including DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zambia.

We also provide nutrition expertise to increase the integration and reach of nutrition interventions through integrated health programming, with tailored social behavior change communication (SBCC) interventions and engagement of key influential community members, such as elder women and men.

The Program continues work begun under USAID’s predecessor Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) 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 is an updated version of the K4Health Integrated Anemia Prevention and Control Toolkit, which was developed under MCHIP, with an emphasis on providing guidance and best practices on program design and implementation for anemia programming.

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

Key Results

MCSP developed four peer-reviewed articles and four briefs presenting a review of evidence on unaddressed barriers to maternal nutrition and weight gain during pregnancy; barriers which impede exclusive breastfeeding; barriers and successes of community-based distribution of iron-folic acid supplementation; and considerations for inclusion of junk food consumption into IYCF programs in low- and middle-income countries:

In addition:

  • MCSP authored an open access article in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition – Program considerations for integration of nutrition and family planning: Beliefs around maternal diet and breastfeeding within the context of the nutrition transition in Egypt – to better facilitate understanding of food choice, weight gain during pregnancy, beliefs around breastfeeding, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), and postpartum family planning.
  • In Kenya, MCSP with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF rolled out the Baby-Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI) to improve IYCF practices through guideline development, capacity building, and roll-out of BFCI in western Kenya. MCSP led the development of the first-ever, national-level BFCI Implementation Guidelines, and BFCI monitoring and evaluation tools.
  • In Malawi, MCSP with the Ministry of Health scaled-up the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to improve breastfeeding practices, which include updating the BFHI 20-hour course, job aids, and tools to include the latest guidance on infant feeding and HIV. MCSP trained 54 hospitals on BFHI in 28 districts, which involved the capacity-building of 1,940 hospital staff and counseling of more than 80,000 women on exclusive breastfeeding.
  • In Haiti and Kenya, context-specific counseling approaches and materials are being developed based on formative assessments to improve counseling on maternal anemia and breastfeeding, which culminated in two reports: 1) addressing side effects of IFA supplementation; and 2) barriers to exclusive breastfeeding. These materials were used in training of trainers and for capacity building of facility- and community-level providers to improve nutrition counseling.
  • In Egypt, Haiti, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Pakistan, MCSP is supporting evidence-based intervention approaches for the development and/or adaptation of nutrition guidelines, training approaches, curriculums, e-learning modules, and associated Program tools for use by facilities and communities.
  • In Tanzania, a formative research study on integration of nutrition into family planning programming provided information on how to strengthen IYCF, use of LAM, and the transition to other modern family planning methods. This was used to inform Program implementation and SBCC approaches.
  • In DR Congo, implementation science research on integration of nutrition into child health (integrated community case management) was completed, and the findings are being used to inform on program design and implementation of an integrated pilot approach.
Maternal Child Survival Program
Maternal and Child Survival Program