Last week, the Government of Ethiopia launched a new multisectoral nutrition program entitled, ‘Addressing Maternal Malnutrition, Child Wasting and Stunting in Ethiopia.’
The programme, which is funded by the Power of Nutrition, Eleanor Crook Foundation, The END Fund and the Rotary International, will be implemented through a partnership agreement between the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and Action Against Hunger. It is a $30 million partnership agreement with a match-funding of 50 per cent from the three implementing partners which will be implemented across 10 regions in Ethiopia.
This programme will be implemented in collaboration with development and humanitarian partners, as well as the private sector while pooling the expertise from other sectors including Health, WASH and Agriculture.
“The Government of Ethiopia has strong commitment to accelerate the reduction of stunting and ending child malnutrition by 2030 as a key strategy for human capital development and inclusive economic development,” said Dr. Meseret Zelalem, Director, Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition Directorate.
Ethiopia has experienced a steady reduction in the prevalence of stunting over the past two decades from 58 per cent in 2000 to 37 per cent in 2019. This is a result of the Government and partners’ ongoing commitment to end malnutrition in all its forms through creating policy space, expanding service delivery platforms and capacity-building initiatives.
However, despite the progress, more than 5.8 million children under five years are affected by stunting and 1.2 million are affected by wasting. The average prevalence of stunting in developing countries is 25 per cent, which makes Ethiopia amongst the countries with the highest number of stunted children under five in the world.
“Improving maternal nutrition is important to ensure women’s health and achieve better pregnancy and birth outcomes. Equally, the prevention of wasting and stunting will promote optimal growth for children to thrive in a productive workforce. UNICEF is hereby committed to support the Government of Ethiopia and mobilise the required funding for this programme,” said Kitka Goyol, OIC, UNICEF Deputy Representative.
Over the five years, the programme will reach at least one million pregnant women and three million children with vital health and nutrition services. It is also expected to promote long-term improvements to the population’s nutrition as well as socio-economic indicators by making Ethiopia’s health and food systems more resilient and encouraging healthier, more productive communities.
Given the scale of malnutrition in the country, there is an urgent need to accelerate the provision of vital nutrition services for vulnerable people. Here, the new programme is expected to address the many drivers of short and long-term malnutrition by combining multiple interventions in a holistic approach to strengthen systems and scale the coverage of high-impact health and nutrition services.
The programme will incorporate several components, including:
(a) improving the delivery of maternal nutrition services,
(b) increase coverage of the high-impact interventions for the prevention of wasting and stunting, including promoting infant and young child feeding practices, introducing deworming for children 12-23 months,
(c) leverage from the existing Government led innovations, including the use of Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation (MMS) among pregnant women and egg powder for improved diets among children.
(d) Generate evidence and scale simplified approaches in the management of wasting through operational research
“Ensuring that children with acute malnutrition have ready access to effective treatment is critical to minimizing the risk of preventable morbidity and mortality. Action Against Hunger is therefore dedicated to working with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and other nutrition stakeholders to explore innovations and simplifications to increase the cost-effectiveness and coverage of treatment in Ethiopia through this project, enabling us to reach more children with limited resources,” said Ria Jusufbegovic, Country Director, Action Against Hunger.
The scope ranges from influencing policies at the national level to system strengthening support at the grassroots level, for sustainable delivery of quality nutrition services at scale for women and children in Ethiopia.
Overall, this investment will be catalytic in supporting the operation of the New Ethiopian National Food and Nutrition Strategy and demonstrate the value of partnerships and investments in Nutrition to reach the SDG targets.