Callum Northcote, Policy Advocacy Coordinator, reflects on a recent visit to Malawi to see how nutrition programmes are being integrated into wider health programmes and previews this week’s nutrition advocacy tour.

The clamour of activity was all around. Queues of people chatting with each other, babies crying, small children running and laughing – the distraction from this excitement could have hidden the reason that was bringing all these people together: life-changing, and life-saving, interventions.

Photo: Anushree Shiroor/RESULTSUK

We were in Malawi, to look at the integration of nutrition interventions into wider health programmes. We know that malnutrition is a global problem. All countries are affected by it and around half of all under-five deaths can be attributed to underlying malnutrition. In Malawi, 37% of children under-five are stunted (they are too short for their age). This represents progress since 2010 when the rate of stunting was 48%, but means that many children are still not able to reach their full potential.

Nutrition and other health issues are interlinked. Malnourished children suffer from frequent illness and once afflicted with illness poor quality and quantity of food can delay recovery and increase the likelihood of relapse. Immunisation, a key intervention in the battle against preventable childhood deaths, can also be less effective in malnourished children compounding health problems. The interconnectedness of the issues means that solutions must examine this dynamic.

And that’s why, on our visit to Malawi, we wanted to see how efforts to improve nutrition and health for young children could be scaled up simultaneously. On our visit to the community, groups of mothers and children were congregating in a village centre to receive a package of interlinked health interventions. Children were being weighed and checked for malnourishment, children were being immunised, and mothers were receiving advice on family planning methods and were able to take up their method of choice. We also observed and spoke with women from the community who conducted demonstrations for mothers with young children on recipes for complementary feeding using locally sourced ingredients. These women also discussed issues of hygiene and sanitation with the mothers. Interconnected solutions to tackle interconnected health and nutrition challenges. This saves lives and promotes community health.

Photo: Anushree Shiroor/RESULTS UK

This week, RESULTS UK is delighted to be joined by Tisungeni Zimpita from Concern Worldwide Malawi. Tisu is a National Coordinator for the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) movement Civil Society Alliance in Malawi and will be bringing the message of the importance of nutrition in development to policymakers and decision makers in the UK. As part of this week, we will launch our research showing the links between nutrition and health at various stages of the life cycle. The report will be available on the RESULTS UK website later this week. We will also be sharing video blogs from our experiences in Malawi over the next week to show the work being done in local communities.

Stay up to date by following the story through our blog and social media platforms this week.