Key Interventions to Address Undernutrition

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The first two years of a child's life present a 'Window of Opportunity' to prevent undernutrition in children. Some key interventions can offer the best chance for a child's survival and optimal growth & development.


Timely initiation of Breastfeeding - within one hour of birth.

  • Colostrum, the yellowish, thick and sticky fluid secreted for the first 3-5 days after birth is rich in nutrients and offers immunity to the child.
  • This helps to prevent neonatal and infant mortality and morbidity.
  • Body contact helps to build a bond between the mother and the newborn and also keeps the baby warm.
  • lt stimulates milk production and the increased secretion of milk.


Exclusive Breastfeeding during the first six months of life. There is no commercial formula food which equal to breast milk and there is no substitute for mother's milk.

  • Mother's milk is the best food for the child and contains all the nutrients needed by the infant for optimum growth and development. Even water is not required as mother's milk has adequate water.
  • lt ensures maximum protection for the child against diseases and death.
  • Breast milk is easier to digest than formula milk, and unlike formula milk does not cause constipation.
  • Breastfeeding does not require any pre-preparation or pose any risk of contamination, as long as the mother maintains a sufficient degree of personal hygiene.


Timely introduction of complementary foods after six months. Age-appropriate complementary feeding along with continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond.

  • After six months of age, breast milk alone cannot fulfill the nutritional requirements of growing infants, as they are then undergoing a period of rapid growth and development. Hence, semi-solid foods should be introduced along with breastfeeding.
  • Every child of 6-24 months should be fed age-appropriate, energy and nutrient-dense, diverse complementary foods with increased quantities and frequency, as the child grows in age.
  • The child should be fed with love and care.

Infancy / Early childhood

Timely and Complete Immunisation, Iron, Folic acid and Vitamin A supplementation with De-worming.

  • Immunisation helps to protect the child against various preventable diseases. Every child should receive all primary immunisation by the age of one and booster doses thereafter.
  • Vitamin A supplementation helps to maintain good eyesight and develops strong immunity. Besides giving foods rich in Vitamin A, nine doses of supplementation must be given. First dose is given at 9 months and thereafter, one dose every 6 months, up to the age of five years.
  • Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) is commonly seen in infants and young children. lt makes them lethargic, irritable, reduces their learning ability, subsequently affecting school performance. Foods rich in iron, along with supplementation of iron and folic acid, is necessary.
  • Deworming, twice a year, helps to prevent worm infestation.

Infancy / Childhood

Frequent & appropriate feeding for children during and after illnesses, including Oral Rehydration with Zinc Supplementation during Diarrhoea.

  • Diarrhoea, Acute Respiratory Infection and Malaria, all impact the nutritional status of a child. An illness causes loss of body fluids and nutrients, leading to dehydration.
  • Infection can be prevented by ensuring:
         - Access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities
         - Adopting hand washing practices at critical times
         - Safe disposal of stool
  • Effective management of common illnesses can be done by:
         - Treatment of diarrhoea with Oral Rehydration with Zinc
         - Treatment of acute respiratory infection at health facilities
  • An illness reduces appetite and increases energy requirements. Therefore, feeding during and after an illness is essential to rebuild strength and increase resistance to infection:
         - Frequent small nutrient dense meals should be given
         - At no cost should feeding be stopped
         - Breastfeeding should be continued and given more frequently
         - The intake of fluids should be increased
         - Feeding should be done with love and care


Improved food and nutrient intake for adolescent girls, particularly to prevent Anaemia.

  • Adolescence is a period of rapid growth and development. Nutrient stores are developed in the body for pregnancy and lactation. Iron deficiency anaemia is common among adolescent girls, but iron intake continues to remain poor. An inter-generational vicious cycle of poor nutrition, growth and development sets in Specifically, cases of early marriage and early pregnancy result in poor gestational weight gain, and hence, girls have low birth weight babies.
  • Every adolescent girl should be given a proper and adequate diet, rich in iron, folic acid and other vitamins & minerals.
  • The prevention of early marriage and delay in age at first pregnancy, are essential for good health of adolescent girls.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Improved care and nutrient intake, including iron, during pregnancy and lactation.

  • Pregnancy and lactation are periods of physiological stress when the food and nutrient requirements increase, since the foetus/infant is dependent on the mother to meet its requirements. Proper intake of food and iron during this period can help in preventing low birth weight. Hence, pregnant and lactating women should consume a diet:
         - With additional protein and energy
         - Rich in iron, folic acid and other minerals and vitamins
         - With iodised salt
  • A pregnant and lactating mother is advised to rest for at least two hours during the day.
  • Proper health care, during and after pregnancy, includes:
         - At least three antenatal checkups
         - Consumption of at least a 1 00 iron folic acid tablets
         - Two Tetanus Toxoid injections
         - Institutional delivery and post-natal checkup
         - Advice on birth spacing

Other Physiological Groups

All adults, the youth, elderly men and women, should ensure a diet

  • With adequate nutrients
  • With iodised salt
  • With ample fibre
  • Without junk food

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  • Indian Academny of Pediatrics
  • HealthPhone
  • Vodafone India
  • Ministry of Women and Child Development
  • UNICEF India

About IAP HealthPhone

An initiative of HealthPhone™, conducted under the aegis of Indian Academy of Pediatrics, in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF, Aamir Khan and with support from Vodafone.

The objective of this nationwide campaign against malnutrition is to address issues of status of women, the care of pregnant mothers and children under two, breastfeeding and the importance of balanced nutrition and health. The focus is on women between 13 and 35 years of age and their family members.

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