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.


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
  • Focusing on “first 1,000 days,” NOURISH works to reduce malnutrition in women and children to help children reach their full growth and development potential in Cambodia. In pursuit of its goal, NOURISH applies an integrated approach that brings together health/nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and agriculture sectors through four complementary strategies to: improve community delivery platforms to support better nutrition; create demand for health, WASH, and agriculture practices, services, and products; expand the supply of agriculture and WASH products with the help of the private sector; and enhance sub-national government and civil society capacity in integrated nutrition. Currently NOURISH works in more than 300 underserved, food insecure rural villages in three provinces, expanding to 559 villages in 2017 with a package of interventions tailored to rural Cambodian women's and children's needs. NOURISH supports more than 6,200 of the poorest ‘first 1,000 days’ households to access health and nutrition services and stunting prevention products through conditional cash transfers and integrated vouchers, and a social behavior change communication campaign.
  • In Mozambique, Save the Children implements the Health Service Delivery Program (HSDP) Community-Based Nutrition Project (NBC). This World Bank-funded contract, implemented through the Ministry of Health, focuses on improving the nutrition and health outcomes of more than 500,000 children under 2, pregnant women, and adolescent girls in 14 districts of Nampula Province. Through an extensive network of more than 8,000 activists and volunteers, NBC supports regular community-based growth monitoring and promotion activities, distribution of multiple micronutrient powders to targeted households, weekly nutrition and health education sessions through mothers groups, and community mobilization for nutrition through local leaders.
  • Growth through Nutrition builds and expands on the success and achievements of USAID’s 5-year flagship multi-sector nutrition project in Ethiopia, Empowering New Generations to Improve Nutrition and Economic Opportunities (ENGINE). Maintaining a focus on the ‘first 1,000 days,’ the critical window of opportunity to prevent - and reverse - stunting malnutrition, Growth through Nutrition promotes use of services, products, and practices for optimal nutrition for women and children. Save the Children leads the implementation of Growth through Nutrition, working with partners to address priority areas, including targeting most vulnerable households with an increased focus on investment in agriculture and WASH sectors, women’s empowerment, and adolescent and maternal nutrition. High-impact and innovative SBCC activities to help families overcome barriers to improved nutrition, such as the highly successful ‘Enhanced Community Conversations’ peer group discussions, will be rolled out across the project areas.
  • In Ethiopia, Save the Children is a partner on the Alive & Thrive (A&T) initiative funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Governments of Canada and Ireland. A&T tests innovative ideas for scaling up effective and sustainable infant and young child feeding (IYCF) interventions in developing countries. Since the start of implementation in 2014, Save the Children has played a lead role in A&T in Ethiopia, training 707 health extension workers and health workers and 9,515 health development army team leaders to provide targeted messages on IYCF practices to pregnant women and mothers of children under 2 at key points during pregnancy and the first 24 months of a child’s life. Save the Children has worked through two local partners to deliver Enhanced Community Conversations that discuss IYCF, maternal nutrition, and WASH practices to 36,000 pregnant and lactating women, 7,500 men and 2,300 grandmothers and mothers-in-law.


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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