Stunting, when a child is prevented from growing or developing to its full potential, is caused by prolonged inadequate nutrition from conception to the age of 2. In some countries the rate of stunting is as high as one in three children. Recent estimates show that 161 million under the age of 5 are stunted.
GAIN focuses on improving maternal and child nutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days from conception through to a child’s second birthday , to break intergenerational cycles of malnutrition and stunting. To do this we will increase the number of programs focused on reducing stunting on a large scale, using comprehensive methods encompassing health and nutrition interventions.
Deficiencies of vitamins A and D, iron, folic acid and zinc are widespread and seriously damage health, increasing mortality.
In many countries, the available diet does not provide adequate levels of nutrients. By fortifying staple foods, we can prevent micronutrient deficiencies across entire populations, with particularly positive results among women of reproductive age and adolescent girls. Fortification can be a cheap and effective national or regional nutrition strategy.
Since 2002, our food-fortification programs have reached hundreds of millions of people around the world with fortified staple foods and condiments. By 2017, we aim to reach 1.3 billion people, including 400 million women and adolescent girls and 200 million children under 5 through large scale food fortification programs which support the additional intake of critical micronutrients.
Our activity will focus on providing critical technical assistance to improve standards and food safety in existing programs, and strengthening national partnerships and long-term industry and government commitment in our current projects and new countries.
Dietary diversity — having the right mix of food in a diet to ensure people have access to all the nutrients they need — is an essential tool for improving nutrition.
At GAIN, we are focused on making markets work, guiding agricultural investments, and building an integrated research agenda that is supported by the nutrition and agriculture sectors.
GAIN’s Marketplace for Nutritious Foods is helping to bring new products to market by developing a better understanding of what motivates purchasing decisions, and supporting local entrepreneurship and experimentation. Examples include the sale of protein-rich chicken offal in small, affordable quantities; pasteurised milk dispensers that allow customers to take just what they can afford; and drying technologies that keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer.
We are developing programs to trial innovative new technologies such as biofortification to breed higher levels of micronutrients into staple foods like sweet potatoes or maize, and new techniques to fortify staple foods such as soaking rice with zinc.
PREGNANT WOMEN, NEW MOTHERS AND CHILDREN
We focus on pregnant and breastfeeding women to improve the health of both mothers and children.
Better nutrition for pregnant women is critical to improving the chances of a healthy life for their unborn children, increasing birth weight and preventing stunting. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months combined with complementary feeding to age 2 is essential for a healthy start in life.
We are exploring new ways of reaching mothers — through public forums, women’s self-help groups, workplace groups and mobile technology. We know that educating and empowering women to demand better and more effective support from their health system will have wide-reaching consequences.
We are developing innovative behavior-change programs to address pressures on new mothers from their own communities and irresponsible promotion of breast milk substitutes, both of which can result in a lack of confidence in ability to breastfeed or care for their children.
IMPROVING NUTRITION FOR ADOLESCENT GIRLS
At GAIN, we focus programs on adolescent girls and women of reproductive age to improve their nutrition, health and productivity, as well as prevent low birth weight and stunting in their future children.
As women and girls are unlikely to be part of the health system, we develop innovative programs to reach them in schools, factories and workplaces, and community centres and through the marketplace.
Adolescent girls stop growing when they become pregnant, and are the most likely to experience complications and die of pregnancy-related causes. Their babies tend to be small, which is linked to neonatal death and 20 percent of all childhood stunting. That’s why we are looking at opportunities to integrate nutrition in sexual reproductive health and maternal health programs.