Women’s good nutrition before and during pregnancy is crucial to prevent child stunting. At least 20 percent of the stunting observed in early childhood occurs in the womb due to maternal undernutrition.
Poor nutrition of South Asian women is a major determinant of the high rates of child stunting in the region. Over 50 percent of South Asian adolescent girls are underweight, anemic or both.
Women who married or became pregnant during adolescence, did not complete secondary school or have little decision making power in the household are at a higher risk of having children who are stunted.
Growing evidence shows that the ingestion of high quantities of fecal bacteria through mouthing soiled fingers and household items by young children reduces nutrient absorption and increases nutrient losses in their small bodies, thus leading to stunting.
In South Asia, 610 million people defecate in the open. Growing evidence suggests that there is a link between children’s growth and the sanitation practices in the households where children live.
In Maharashtra, children from households without access to improved sanitation had 88 percent higher probability of being severely stunted than children from households with improved sanitation.
There is a critical window of opportunity – from conception to two years age – to prevent child stunting. During these 1,000 days, 10 proven interventions offer South Asian children the best chance to grow and develop to their full potential.
Essential Nutrition Action 1: Breastfeeding, within the first hour of life, is vital to the survival of children.
Breastfeeding, within one hour of life, protects the newborn from infections and reduces the risk of death. Proper positioning and attachment helps the mother produce more milk for her child and favors exclusive and a longer duration of breastfeeding.