A Suaahara project counseling session for mothers on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, Nepal.

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly 3.1 million child deaths each year1. Worldwide, more than 170 million children fail to reach their full potential due to poor nutrition and 2 billion people suffer the effects of nutritional deficiencies. Under-nutrition is also estimated to account for a 10 percent reduction of lifetime earnings, placing a huge burden on household and national economies2. Malnutrition includes under-nutrition and over-nutrition both of which lead to poor health conditions and early death in developing and developed countries around the world1.

In the U.S., more than 23 million children and adolescents—nearly one in three3 —are obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk for serious, even life-threatening health problems. In the communities Save the Children serves, an average of 59 percent of the population does not have access to fresh, healthy foods. More than 60 percent of 5- to 10-year-olds have at least one risk factor for heart disease4. The percentage of children, ages 6–11, who are obese has quadrupled over the past 35 years, making this a public health epidemic3.

Well-nourished children are better equipped to fight disease, learn and contribute to society. Girls with good nutrition become strong women and have healthier children and more prosperous families. Societies with well-nourished populations are more productive, economically viable and secure.


In the US

Child Nutrition
Deshaina, 9 and Faith, 11 create a fruit kabob in the food lab station during the "Healthy Choices" pep rally at their school in Kentucky.

Save the Children combats childhood obesity and malnutrition for children in the U.S. through the effective combination of practice and policy. Our work combines locally driven approaches that involve and inspire communities with programs and policies that benefit all children in the fight against childhood obesity. Working with local partners across the country, Save the Children provides programming to increase children’s access to affordable healthy food, nutrition knowledge, and opportunities for physical activity.

U.S. Program Highlights

Healthy Choices operates in the after-school and summer environment in 14 states, serving more than 13,900 children living in poverty. We provide children with 30 minutes or more of daily, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that teaches lifelong movement skills and combines fun and fitness. In addition, participating children also receive a daily, healthy snack, in alignment with Save the Children’s Healthy Snack Standards, and participate in weekly nutrition education. Through exposure to healthy snacks and nutrition lessons, children are encouraged to make good food choices and lead healthier, active lifestyles.


The first 1,000 days—from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday: that’s the time frame Save the Children emphasizes as the “window of opportunity” for nutrition. During this time, a child’s brain and body develop rapidly. The 1,000 days approach is critical, for even if a child’s nutrition status improves after the first two years of life, damage done during those early years is largely irreversible.

We work with partners at all levels to prevent malnutrition by bringing a wide range of integrated interventions and programs to mothers and children, delivered through health workers and volunteers in the community and health staff at the health facility. Our programs:

  • address adequate food and nutrient intake, effective feeding and care practices, and protection against infectious diseases;
  • support breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding at six months, feeding during illness, food preparation, hygiene and health care-seeking;
  • improve access to essential micronutrients through fortification, supplementation and dietary diversity measures;
  • work to increase demand for services and better practices through social and behavior change communications.

To ensure progress on the frontlines of nutrition, it is essential to galvanize and capitalize on political commitment. Save the Children supports the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, a global platform that is active in more than 30 countries, and we convene the SUN Civil Society global network and facilitate coalitions in several countries to build capacity in nutrition planning and policy.

Selected Highlights
  • The USAID-funded Suaahara Project mobilizes communities in Nepal to adopt positive agriculture, nutrition and hygiene practices, and health service promotion. Suaahara applies the latest evidence-based interventions at scale in 41 of Nepal’s 75 districts to reach 625,000 households. The project has increased the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding of children under six months of age by 18 percent—from 46 to 64 percent, and improved the prevalence of children 6-23 months receiving a minimum acceptable diet from 36 to 54 percent in the initial 25 districts.
  • Empowering New Generations to Improve Nutrition and Economic Opportunities (ENGINE) is a USAID-funded integrated nutrition program in Ethiopia that strengthens capacity to develop and institutionalize national nutrition programs and policies, and improves nutrition and health care services. ENGINE works in four regions of Ethiopia to support 16,000 of the most vulnerable households, 3.1 million children under the age of 5 (with a focus on those under two), half a million pregnant and lactating women, and 3.2 million women of reproductive age.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Governments of Canada and Ireland-funded Alive & Thrive initiative, led by FHI 360, works to reduce morbidity, mortality and stunting by addressing sub-optimal infant and young child feeding practices at scale. The program has contributed to a nearly threefold increase in exclusive breastfeeding in Viet Nam (from 19 to 58 percent between 2010 to 2014), among other improvements in nutrition practices in intervention areas. Alive & Thrive builds on lessons learned through its partnership with BRAC, GMMB, IFPRI, Save the Children, UC Davis, and World Vision in the first phase of the initiative.
  • Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) is a 5-year USAID flagship nutrition project dedicated to strengthening global and country efforts to advance supportive nutrition policies, and scale up high-impact nutrition interventions. SPRING provides technical support to create social and behavior change through communication, link agriculture and nutrition, and prevent stunting and maternal and child anemia in the first 1,000 days after birth.
  • In December 2014, Save the Children hosted a one-day technical symposium, ‘What is Good for Nutrition?’ which brought together more than 70 stakeholders for in-depth, proactive technical discussions. Topics included how we measure the impact of nutrition programs and the direction of future nutrition programming. Lessons at-scale from Save the Children’s USAID bilateral nutrition projects in Ethiopia and Nepal, FHI 360’s Alive & Thrive Initiative, and the global SPRING project were shared as well.


1Black, Vitora, Walker et al. (2013) “Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries,” The Lancet 382(9890) 427-451

2Horton, Sheekar et al (2010). “Scaling up Nutrition, What Will it Cost,” World Bank

3“Communicating for Success: Childhood Obesity Message Manual. (2009)”. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

4 “Childhood Obesity Facts” (2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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