Undernourished girls have a greater likelihood of becoming undernourished mothers who in turn have a greater chance of giving birth to low birth weight babies , perpetuating an intergenerational cycle.
This cycle can be compounded further in young mothers, especially adolescent girls who begin childbearing before they have grown and developed enough. When mothers take only short intervals between pregnancies and have many children, this can exacerbate nutrition deficits, which are then passed on to their children.
While it is globally acknowledged that focusing on the first 1000 days of a child’s life – from conception to two years of age – is a critical window of opportunity to address child stunting.
However, to date, the focus of nutrition programmes for Indian children has largely been post-birth, with child and feeding-centred interventions. It is known that 50 per cent of the growth failure that gets accrued by two years of age occurs in the womb owing to poor nutrition its mother both during pregnancy and before pregnancy..
There is sufficient knowledge base that foetal stunting is largely caused by inadequate nutrition of the mother before conception and in the first trimester.
Arrived at through national and global consensus
UNICEF In Action
UNICEF India has also been at the forefront of strengthening coverage of existing nutrition interventions for women in flagships through policy, advocacy and system strengthening strategies.
More recently, it has also generatedingresearch evidenceon the barriers and opportunities that exist to universalizing the coverage and quality of the five interventions. Importantly, given the linkages of women’s nutrition with poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and food security, two innovations are underway.
Firstly, a partnership has been established with the “Aaajevika” programme of the India government’s National Rural Livelihood Mission to test whether women’s nutrition initiatives can be mainstreamed through women’s empowerment platforms under “Aaajevika”.