5 Min Inspiration: How diets (and CARE) help kids grow up healthy

 Food Security
 10th Sep 2020

Photo CARE Haiti has set up community canteen corners for children affected by the closure of schools following the COVID-19 crisis. It is an adaptation of the market-based school community canteen model promoted by the community school canteen project funded by the French Embassy in Haiti. 

As many as 149 million children under five are stunted (too short for their age) and over 49 million are wasted (too thin). Malnutrition is more than a lack of food or calories. Good nutrition demands a diversity of quality food, with the right nutrients, in the right amounts. Nutrition-related factors contribute to 45% of deaths of children under five years old. Poor nutrition early in a child’s life permanently impairs physical and cognitive development, often creating an intergenerational cycle of poverty.

CARE’s impact data now shows that together with our partners, we have contributed to improving the food and nutrition security and climate change resilience (FNS & CCR) for over 35 million people. In FY19 alone, our FNS & CCR portfolio reached 20.3 million participants directly and 77.5 million indirectly through 560 projects across 66 countries.
So, what are we learning from our most successful work to improve nutrition? How are we fostering individual, family, and community-level change so that people and populations thrive?
What are the impacts we are seeing?
Kids are growing up healthier:
In FY19, CARE contributed to 1,191,258 children under 5 escaping stunting, increasing the food and nutrition security of over 2,635,000 people with 23 projects across 16 countries. Within these projects, the top five impact projects on CARE’s stunting indicator include:

  • Nutrition at the Center in Bangladesh resulted in a 14.2 % drop in stunting and an 11.8% reduction in the number of children who are too thin for their age , helping 21,821 children.  
  • Mali’s Nutrition and Hygiene project has improved nutrition for 481,364 children under 5, and helped 61,999 kids get healthy growth.
  • Siaya Maternal and Child Nutrition Nawiri in Kenya helped 43,163 children under 5 escape stunting.
  • SHOUHARDO, a CARE implemented food safety net program in Bangladesh, contributed to reducing stunting by 21%, enabling 25,249 children under the age of 5 to escape stunting.
  • Lead by CARE and scaled through the government, Peru’s Child Malnutrition Initiative contributed to a 50% reduction in stunting in seven years – helping more than 2.32 million kids.

People have more, and more nutritious, food:
Food and nutrition security requires more than just having “enough food.” It’s about enough nutritious food. Healthy, diverse diets are the foundation of good nutrition and a core element of food security. Yet, for many, healthy, diverse diets are not accessible. CARE is changing that! In FY19, we reduced food insecurity for 4,279,165 people - 50.9% women and girls - with 68 projects across 24 countries.

  • SHOUHARDO in Bangladesh reduced food insecurity for 1.50 million including a 281% increase in the number of households growing vegetables and 81% increase in household dietary diversity.
  • Suaaahara II reduced food insecurity for 1.19 million in Nepal by supporting the Government to expand health and nutrition services that target adolescents, addressing anemia and food diversity.
  • Emergency Cash-First Response to Drought-Affected Communities in the Southern Provinces of Zimbabwe reached 73,718 households, improving the food and nutrition security for 200,140 individuals despite a severe drought and a national cash crisis.
  • CARE’s Agricultural Extension Project, in consortium with Dhaka Ahsania Mission and mPower, enhanced access to and utilization of agricultural extension services by smallholder farmers – both men and women – reducing food insecurity for 181,041 in 12 districts of Bangladesh.
  • In Bangladesh, the Social and Economic Transfers for the Ultra Poor project, increased food security for 142,096 by targeting 45,000 extreme poor households to sustainably graduate out of extreme poverty.

How did we get there?
Promoting an integrated food systems approach: CARE ensures that all of our food and nutrition security programs include objectives for improved nutrition, especially for women and children. Our SFtW framework improves health and nutrition by integrating nutrition across our work. The Nutrition and Hygiene project in Mali educated communities on healthy behaviors, improved community-based treatment of malnutrition, and prevented infectious diseases that can cause malnutrition. In Nepal, Suaahara II supports the Government to expand health and nutrition services that target adolescents, supporting good nutrition for kids, and helping farmers grow, store, and eat more diverse food.
Promoting multi-stakeholder platforms: CARE knows that together we can achieve more. CARE seeks out key partners and alliances to multiply impact. As an active member in the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, including leadership in national, regional and global SUN Civil Society Alliances, CARE is committed to delivering through a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach to nutrition. In Bangladesh, the Nutrition at the Center project piloted nutrition coordination committees that the Government of Bangladesh is scaling up nationally. CARE’s multi-country Collective Impact for Nutrition (CI4N), is facilitating a bringing a range of actors together to solve malnutrition, and has the potential to help 5.4 million children escape stunting.
Promoting gender equality and change social norms: Our projects stimulate participatory dialogue to challenge negative power, gender and social norms around nutrition, through CARE’s Social Analysis and Action (SAA) for FNS approach. In Bangladesh, using this model SHOUHARDO III (2016-2020) had reached more than 30,000 women and adolescent girls by working to raise women’s status, tackling inequalities between women and men and reducing poverty.
Adapting for emergencies: By expanding existing nutrition program support through Collective Impact for Nutrition, CARE contributed to improved emergency nutrition screening and response services for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Children with malnutrition have received treatment and support 927,993 times! In Zimbabwe’s Emergency Cash-First Response, cash transfers met 87.5% of food needs, including an increase in meals by 29.2% children and 18.6% for adults, and 21.7% reduction in negative coping strategies. With over one million mobile transfers, CARE’s response was the largest ever humanitarian cash transfer projected to be carried out in Zimbabwe.
Advocating for results: CARE is actively calling for food, agriculture, and nutrition policies and investments that promote rights and scale up nutrition, gender, and climate work. For example, in Southern Africa, CARE is undertaking efforts to hold governments accountable to close the implementation gap on numerous policy and investment commitments that governments and regional economic blocs have made that can dramatically reduce food and nutrition insecurity and vulnerability. At the national level, CARE is advocating for an increase in national level ambition to tackle malnutrition, including increased budget allocations. In Siaya County of Kenya, CARE’s Maternal and Children Nutrition Nawiri Project helped the government build the evidence and skills to reach 94,435 children under 5 years, 127, 065 women of reproductive age, 42,000 adolescent girls, and 20,000 men to improve quality maternal, infant, and young child nutrition services and nutrition for women of the reproductive age.

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