Last year, Afghanistan became the 60th country to join Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a global movement to end malnutrition, and thus signaled its strong commitment to invest in a better future for its citizens.
—or of low height for their age.
and will reduce their potential to contribute toward their country’s growth and prosperity.
On the other hand, a well-nourished child tends to complete more years of schooling, learns better, and earns higher wages in adulthood, thereby increasing the odds that he or she will escape a life of poverty.
As such, , which in turn can help boost its economic growth, productivity, and human capital development.
To help the Afghan government invest in better nutrition, the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), World Bank and UNICEF have partnered to determine what it would take to reach more children, women, and their families and provide them with essential nutrition services that would ultimately reduce stunting and anemia.
To that end, the new Investment Framework for Nutrition in Afghanistan working paper is a start to better understand the cost, impacts and benefits of expanding the nutrition package of the current Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), a national program which defines and establishes healthcare standards across the country.
Some good practices are easier to implement than others.
For example, breastfeeding is among the most cost-effective things that can be done to decrease stunting. And encouraging mothers to only breastfeed their newborns in their first six months and then feed them appropriate complementary food will benefit their child in the first critical years of his or her life.
These benefits will then carry on throughout the child’s life by increasing their chances of survival, improving their brain development, and lowering their risks of contracting chronic diseases as adults.
Further to that, the report outlines key trends.
Yet, by setting conservative targets to deliver essential nutrition services, the MoPH will only modestly reduce the number of stunted children, albeit at a low cost.
, reduce anemia in women, increase the number of exclusively breastfed infants and children fed with appropriate complementary foods, and save lives.
Second, these investments can provide an opportunity to involve communities and reach beyond health facilities.
Case in point: Children are often brought to health facilities when they are already sick and malnourished. By shifting the focus to prevention and delivering essential nutrition services closer to families and communities will lead to greater success in preventing stunting and promoting better growth for more children.
Involving communities also aligns with other strategies, such as the Investing in the Early Years initiative, with greater scope to link activities that improve nutrition with other sectors such as community development and education focusing on the critical early years of a child’s life.
. Nutrition investments are not only among the best value-for-money development actions, they also lay the groundwork for successful investments in other sectors.
As Afghanistan sees a rise in community outreach for nutrition services, to drive faster economic growth.