Ending Malnutrition to Break the Cycle of Poverty

“If you weren’t here, my son might not have made it. Thank you for helping.”

– Angelina, Program Participant, Guatemala


Kou*, a mother of seven, lives in Nimba County, Liberia, and like the rest of her country, her community struggles with high rates of poverty and child malnutrition.

Mothers in Kou’s community share stories about children being small and failing to thrive, suffering from frequent diarrhea, and others who have reddish hair (one of the symptoms of malnutrition). Kou recalls that even though she followed the traditional ways of feeding children with rice and cassava paste, her children were often sick. This posed significant challenges for her family given that the nearest health center is more than an hour away. Kou worries about feeding her youngest daughter, Korto, who was born just last year.

In a country ravaged by years of civil war, pervasive poverty, and widespread food and nutrition insecurity, keeping children well-nourished and healthy has been a constant struggle for Liberian families.

We hear similar disheartening stories and see the signs of malnutrition in the countries where we work across the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.”

While the effects of malnutrition are devastating, we’ve also seen the incredible progress that communities can make when given the education, skills, and resources needed to keep their families healthy. Children are able to grow to their fullest potential, focus on their education and futures, and become forces of lasting positive change in their communities.

Infant and Young Child Nutrition

The first few years of a child’s life, especially the first 1,000 days, is the most critical time period of a child’s life. Malnutrition – especially chronic malnutrition – during this period can have irreversible, long-term consequences on a child’s health and cognitive development.

PCI implements programs around the world that promote optimal nutrition practices and linkages to nutrition services from an early age. Some of PCI’s work in child nutrition includes:

  • Promotion of timely initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding among mothers and newborns at Casa Materna – a maternal waiting home in the rural highlands of Guatemala where pregnant women receive high quality maternal and newborn care, and nutrition education on topics such as infant and young child feeding.
  • In Malawi, as part of PCI’s food security project, Njira, PCI trains Care Group Mother Leaders and Father Groups on important maternal, newborn, infant, and child nutrition practices, growth monitoring and promotion, and other critical services available in their communities such as community-based management of acute malnutrition. Mother Leaders then provide integrated health, nutrition, and hygiene behavior change communication and support to households and the community more broadly. Father Group members become role models and male champions for nutrition, health, and hygiene in their families and communities.
  • In Tanzania, PCI’s Engaging Fathers for Effective Child Nutrition (EFFECT) implementation research explores the added value on child development outcomes and gender equity of engaging male caretakers in a group-based infant and young child feeding intervention. PCI works with women’s peer groups and men’s peer groups to give them the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy to overcome barriers to access, utilization, and consumption of diverse, nutrient-rich foods, provide responsive care-giving to their children, and address gender norms in the households that affect child nutrition and development.

Learn more about how our nutrition programs are helping children reach their full potential. 

Nutrition lecture

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Food for Education

Education is the cornerstone of gender and social equity, community development, and national progress. While education transforms lives and provides individuals and families with tools to lift themselves out of poverty, barriers such as food insecurity inhibit learning and educational attainment among many children across the world.

Through our Food for Education (FFE) programs, PCI serves more than 220,000 school meals per day at primary schools in remote areas of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Tanzania to help students learn, grow, and thrive. To ensure meals are healthy and nutrient rich as well as hygienic, PCI plants school gardens and demonstration plots that are managed by the schools and used to feed school children, showcase to the community effective permaculture and gardening techniques, and educate around proper household nutrition practices. PCI also trains school cooks in hygienic food preparation and storage.

Additionally, the FFE programs equip schools with access to clean water and sanitation facilities, provide health, nutrition, and sanitation education to teachers, students, and parents, and support menstrual hygiene management among young adolescents to promote school attendance.

Learn more about how our FFE program is building a brighter future through school meals.

*Names have been changed to protect beneficiary privacy.

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