Regional overview of maternal and child malnutrition: Trends, interventions and outcomes
The proportions of underweight, wasted, and stunted children, as well as the infant and under-5 mortality rates, have all exhibited downward trends in the Region over the past 2 decades. This is in part attributable to maternal and child nutrition intervention programmes, especially those in which women were actively involved. Programmes which support and promote breastfeeding, such as the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, have also contributed to this trend, although the number of baby friendly hospitals varies considerably between countries. Available information also shows that anemia is quite common among women, many of whom also have a low weight and stature and seem to suffer from osteoporosis. In several countries of the Region a number of micronutrient deficiency control programmes are in progress, such as iron supplementation for pregnant women, fortification of flour and iodization of salt. Iodine deficiency disorders are under control in 2 countries of the Region and legislation for salt iodization is in place in 17 countries. Prevalence of severe malnutrition in children is much lower than that of milder levels, thus, promotion of the nutrition status of mildly to moderately malnourished children could lead to a sizeable reduction in child mortality.