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Matern Child Nutr. 2011 Apr;7 Suppl 1:6-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2010.00306.x.

Accelerating improvements in nutritional and health status of young children in the Sahel region of Sub-Saharan Africa: review of international guidelines on infant and young child feeding and nutrition.

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Helen Keller International, Africa Regional Office, Dakar-Yoff, Senegal.


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child holds governments responsible to ensure children's right to the highest attainable standard of health by providing breastfeeding support, and access to nutritious foods, appropriate health care, and clean drinking water. International experts have identified key child care practices and programmatic activities that are proven to be effective at reducing infant and young child undernutrition, morbidity, and mortality. Nevertheless, progress towards reducing the prevalence of undernutrition has been sporadic across countries of the Sahel sub-region of Sub-Saharan Africa. In view of this uneven progress, a working group of international agencies was convened to 'Reposition children's right to adequate nutrition in the Sahel.' The first step towards this goal was to organize a situational analysis of the legislative, research, and programmatic activities related to infant and young child nutrition (IYCN) in six countries of the sub-region: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. The purposes of this introductory paper are to review current information concerning the nutritional and health status of infants and young children in the Sahel and to summarize international guidelines on optimal IYCN practices. These guidelines were used in completing the above-mentioned situational analyses and encompass specific recommendations on: (i) breastfeeding (introduction within the first hour after birth, exclusivity to 6 months, continuation to at least 24 months); (ii) complementary feeding (introduction at 6 months, use of nutrient dense foods, adequate frequency and consistency, and responsive feeding); (iii) prevention and/or treatment of micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin A, zinc, iron and anaemia, and iodine); (iv) prevention and/or treatment of acute malnutrition; (v) feeding practices adapted to the maternal situation to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV; (vi) activities to ensure food security; and (vii) the promotion of hygienic practices concerning food preparation and storage and environmental sanitation. The following papers in this issue will present results of the situational analyses for the individual countries.

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