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Keywords:

  • infant and young child nutrition;
  • national policies;
  • nutrition programmes;
  • monitoring and evaluation;
  • West Africa;
  • Mali

Abstract

Progress towards reducing mortality and malnutrition among children <5 years of age has been less than needed to achieve related Millennium Development Goals. Therefore, several international agencies joined to ‘Reposition children's right to adequate nutrition in the Sahel’, starting with a situational analysis of current activities related to infant and young child nutrition (IYCN). The main objectives of the situational analysis are to compile, analyse and interpret available information on infant and young child feeding, and the nutrition situation of children <2 years of age in Mali, as one of the six targeted countries. Between June and September 2008, key informants responsible for conducting IYCN-related activities in Mali were interviewed, and 117 documents were examined on the following themes: optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, prevention of micronutrient deficiencies, screening and management of acute malnutrition, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, food security, and hygienic practices. Most of the key IYCN topics were addressed in national policies, training materials, and programme documents. Information on the national coverage and impact of these programmes is generally not available. Exclusive breastfeeding (<6 months) has increased in Mali, but no studies identified the contributors to this increase. Despite improvements in breastfeeding practices, optimal infant, and young child feeding is still practiced among too few young children in Mali. Several research articles were identified, but few of these were linked to programme development. Some programme monitoring and evaluation reports were available, but few of these were rigorous enough to identify whether IYCN-specific programme components were implemented as designed or were achieving desired outcomes. Therefore, we could not confirm which programmes contributed to reported improvements. Monitoring of programmes managing malnutrition identified gaps in human and institutional capacities to fully carry out intended interventions and the government has recognized the overall lack of adequate numbers of health care providers to carry out necessary programmes in Mali, of which nutrition programmes are a part. The policy and programme framework is well established for support of optimal IYCN practices, but greater resources and capacity building are needed to: (i) conduct necessary research to adapt training materials and programme protocols to programmatic needs; (ii) implement rigorous monitoring and evaluation that identify effective programme components; and (iii) apply these findings in developing, expanding, and improving effective programmes.