Menu ENN Search

Editorial

View this article as a pdf

Welcome to the second issue of Nutrition Exchange (NEX) South Asia. The South Asia region continues to bear the highest burden of child malnutrition in the world with implications on global progress. As with the first issue, this NEX follows on from a regional conference, convened by SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) on ‘Stop Stunting: Improving Young Children’s Diets in South Asia’ in 2019 in Nepal. Poor complementary feeding practices are associated with high rates of child malnutrition in the South Asia region and it is vital therefore to understand and share learning on how related national policies and programmes are being designed and implemented and share the lessons learned.  

Through a partnership with UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA), we have worked closely with a range of authors to support the development of nine articles from six countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan – as well as an overview from UNICEF ROSA and a regional perspective on tackling the double burden of malnutrition. In keeping with the ethos of NEX, we prioritise the ‘voice’ of national government actors as the primary authors, along with their development partners. 

Each country is a unique context and these articles provide important insights into how the diets of young children are assessed, understood and addressed across diverse settings. Improving complementary feeding is not straightforward and requires taking into account an array of underlying drivers that can reduce availability of and access to adequate and quality diets, including low socio-economic status, food insecurity, and perceptions of appropriate foods and feeding practices. It also needs the enabling policy, programme and financing environment to be effectively mobilised. A standout feature of the South Asia region is how well countries have done in increasing and maintaining high rates of breastfeeding. An enduring challenge is protecting children in the 6-23 months age range from the negative impacts of poor diets on their growth and development.  

As we started work on this edition, the Covid-19 pandemic emerged and exposed the fragilities and inequities in the global and local food systems. As outlined in the overview by the UNICEF regional team, the pandemic is affecting the lives and livelihoods of people across the region. Food-price increases and disruption of key services will add to the challenges already faced by households in feeding their young children. Improving young children’s diets is even more critical to prevent already high levels of child malnutrition from increasing further. 

As highlighted 2019 SAARC/UNICEF conference, it is important for multiple actors across different systems to act in tandem to improve young children’s diets; particularly those engaged in food and health systems; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); and social protection. The articles in this issue of NEX South Asia cover all these areas and their impact on complementary feeding.  

Food systems lie at the heart of the solution to improving young children’s diets. From Nepal we learn about promoting homestead food production as a means to help year-round consumption of fresh foods as a key approach to increasing the diversity and quality of diets in a large, multi-sector programme. From Punjab province in Pakistan comes new evidence on the role of cost of diets, food access and perceptions in shaping a multi-sector communications strategy for infant and young child feeding. Health systems provide a key delivery vehicle for different approaches to address complementary feeding. In Bhutan a home-fortification approach aims to reduce high levels of anaemia, while in Bihar state in India a home-based care approach is building the capacity of frontline workers. In Afghanistan a focus on complementary feeding is part of a community-based nutrition programme being scaled up across the country. Other sectors are involved, too: again from Pakistan, an article from Sindh province describes sub-national ownership of a programme linking WASH and nutrition to improved diets and care/feeding practices. In articles from Bangladesh and Nepal the focus is on the role of cash-based social protection systems in supporting affordable and diverse diets among poor and vulnerable families. And another article from India provides rich insights into the integration of complementary food supplements at scale in the country’s national nutrition programme. Finally, in conversation with regional nutrition advisors from the World Health Organization (WHO), we ask what policy shifts will be needed to tackle the double burden of malnutrition in the region, given rising rates of child overweight. 

Looking at the rich learnings from these diverse countries reveals a strong thread running through these articles: the importance of context-specific understanding of the perceptions and realities for families and communities; the need to harness multiple systems and assess, plan and work jointly; and the need for recognition of innovations and adaptations to policy and programmes to overcome blockages along the way. Frontline workers, be they from the agriculture, health, social protection or WASH sectors or from traditional community structures, are vital contact points for families as they nurture their young children and strive to feed them nutritious and diverse foods. 

It has been our privilege to work on NEX Asia 2 and we remain passionate about the importance of hearing the voices of national and sub-national government actors and their partners as they share their learning about what works well and what challenges they need to overcome in nutrition programming and policy. 

 

Carmel Dolan, Co-editor, NEX
Judith Hodge, Co-editor, NEX

More like this

Resources

View this article as a pdf Global guidance WHO & UNICEF (2003). Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. Geneva: World Health Organization and United Nations...

Leveraging the power of multiple systems to improve diets and feeding practices in early life in South Asia

View this article as a pdf Zivai Murira is the Nutrition Specialist at UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Harriet Torlesse is the Regional...

FEX: Nutrition Exchange (NEX) South Asia: Maternal nutrition

View this article as a pdf In its first-ever regional issue, Nutrition Exchange has partnered with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Regional Office of South Asia...

The double burden of malnutrition among young children in South Asia: Policy and programme options

View this article as a pdf Dr Angela de Silva is the Regional Adviser, Nutrition and Health for Development, WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia. Dr Ayoub Al Jawalhdeh...

FEX: Higher heights: a greater ambition for maternal and child nutrition in South Asia

Research Summary 1 Poor nutrition in early life threatens the growth and development of children, which has a knock-on effect on the sustainable development of nations. This...

FEX: ENN update

View this article as a pdf Field Exchange Special issue on wasting in South Asia Asia is home to half of the world's wasted children (25.9 million) and severely wasted...

Blog post: Stunting & Wasting in South Asia- Reflections from a Regional conference

Lire ce blog en francais Over the years the scope of ENN's work has expanded beyond a focus on humanitarian contexts to encompass a broader set of issues around drivers of...

NEX: Editorial

This seventh issue of Nutrition Exchange introduces an exciting new phase in the publication's development, as ENN will now be publishing NEX twice a year and will bring...

NEX: Editorial

View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici In November 2019, over one hundred countries came together in Katmandu, Nepal as part of the SUN Movement...

NEX South Asia Editorial

Nutrition Exchange (NEX) is a long-standing ENN publication that captures the different experiences of countries in preventing and treating malnutrition. The focus of NEX has...

Unlocking the power of maternal nutrition to improve nutritional care of women in South Asia

Unlocking the power of maternal nutrition to improve nutritional care of women in South Asia View this article as a pdf Zivai Murira is the Nutrition Specialist at...

ENN Latest

New Statement on management of at-risk mothers and infants under six months (MAMI) in the context of COVID-19 issued by members of the MAMI Special Interest Group in...

Blog post: The private sector in nutrition - a player by default or choice? Reflections from a multi-stakeholder meeting

I participated in a Round Table organised by South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative SAFANSI In Colombo in June which was titled “Putting the Lens on the...

NEX: What's new at ENN?

Nutrition Exchange: Preliminary results from user survey ENN conducted an impact survey in late 2017 with the aim of understanding how our global network of practitioners and...

Using an in-depth assessment of young children’s diets to develop a Multisectoral Nutrition Communications Strategy in Punjab province, Pakistan

View this article as a pdf Dr Muhammad Nasir is a medical doctor and Programme Manager in the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Departments of the Government of Punjab. Eric...

Scaling up a community-based nutrition package in Afghanistan to improve complementary feeding practices in children 6-23 months of age

View this article as a pdf Dr Mohammadullah Noorzad is the Senior Officer for the Community Based Nutrition Programme in the Public Nutrition Directorate, Ministry of Public...

NEX: Editorial

We are delighted to share with you Issue 5 of Nutrition Exchange. In keeping with our aim to have the majority of NEX content written by national actors engaged in nutrition...

Blog post: Prioritising Maternal Nutrition in South Asia - Reflections from a regional conference

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting organised jointly by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA)...

Addressing micronutrient gaps to reduce anaemia in Bhutan’s young children: Early experiences in home fortification

View this article as a pdf Laigden Dzed is Deputy Chief Programme Officer in the Nutrition Programme, Ministry of Health, Bhutan. Hari Prasad Pokhrel is a Senior Nutritionist...

NEX: Editorial

Click here to listen to an interview with the authors on the ENN podcast channel It has been a very busy time for the wider nutrition community. There is a sense of urgency to...

Close

Reference this page

ENN (2020). Editorial. Nutrition Exchange Asia 2, June 2020. p2. www.ennonline.net/nex/southasia/2/editorial

(ENN_6692)

Close

Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.