Globally, undernutrition is associated with 2.7 million child deaths or 45% of all child deaths annually. The first 2 years of a child’s life are particularly important, as optimal nutrition during this period lowers morbidity and mortality, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and fosters better development overall. Infant and young child feeding (IYCF) is a key area to improve child survival and promote healthy growth and development.

IYCF practices play an important role in determining the health and development of children. Data on IYCF practices can be assessed by the breastfeeding status of infants, exclusive breastfeeding practices which is recommended for the first six months of life, along with the complementary feeding of children 6-23 months with three key IYCF practices according to WHO guidelines:

  1. continued breastfeeding, or feeding of milk or milk products to non-breastfed children
  2. feeding children solid foods the minimum number of times
  3. feeding children solid foods from the minimum number of food groups

Optimal breastfeeding is so critical that it could save the lives of over 820 000 children under the age of 5 years each year. WHO and UNICEF recommend:

  • early initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth;
  • exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life; and
  • introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond

Nutritional status is a reflection of health as well as the level of a society’s development, and malnutrition is one of the most critical health and development problems facing women and children in developing regions of the world. Data on height and weight measurements allow for an analysis of nutritional status (stunting, wasting and underweight) for children as well as underweight and overweight for women.

Micronutrient deficiencies are a major contributor to morbidity and mortality among women and children. Some of the key indicators on micronutrient deficiencies are (vitamin A consumption and anemia status) and supplementation, and fortification of salt (iodized salt).

Some of the key indicators related to nutrition are

  • Initial breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding status
  • Median duration and frequency of breastfeeding
  • Percentage of children breastfed six or more times
  • Percentage of children 6-23 months who are fed according to three infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices
  • Nutritional status by demographic and background characteristics
  • Anthropometric indicators for women
  • Anthropometric indicators of maternal nutritional status
  • Iodization of household salt
  • Micronutrient intake among children and mothers
  • Prevalence of anemia in children and women
  • Prevalence of anemia in children by anemia status of mother
  • Iron supplementation of children and women