Maternal nutrition: how is Eastern and Southern Africa faring and what needs to be done?
Background: The progress in key maternal health indicators in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) over the past two decades has been slow.
Objective: This paper analyzed available information on nutrition programs and nutrition-specific interventions targeting maternal nutrition in the ESAR and proposes steps to improve maternal nutrition in this region.
Methods: Search was conducted in relevant databases. Meta-analysis was done where there was sufficient data, while data from the nutrition programs was abstracted for objectives, settings, beneficiaries, stakeholders, impact of interventions and barriers encountered during implementation.
Results: Findings from our review suggest that multiple nutrition programs are in place in the ESAR; including programs that directly address nutrition indicators and those that integrate corresponding sectors like agriculture, health, education, and water and sanitation. However, their scale and depth differ considerably. These programs have been implemented by a diverse range of players including respective government ministries, international agencies, non government organisations and the private sector in the region. Most of these programs are clustered in a few countries like Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia while others e.g. Comoros, Somalia and Swaziland have only had a limited number of initiatives.
Conclusion: These programs have been associated with some improvements in overall maternal health and nutritional indicators; however these are insufficient to significantly contribute to the progress in the region. Efforts should be prioritized in countries with the greatest burden of maternal undernutrition and associated risk factors with a focus on existing promising interventions to improve maternal nutrition.
Keywords: Maternal nutrition, Eastern and Southern Africa, undernutrition