Prevention or Cure

A study in Haiti conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Cornell University, in conjunction with World Vision, compared the impact on childhood nutrition of two World Vision programs providing food assistance and health and nutrition interventions. The first program provided nine months of assistance to underweight children aged six months to five years, whereas the second program targeted all children between the ages of six months and two years. Both approaches also targeted pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The study, which was concluded in 2006, found that preventing infants and young children from becoming undernourished is much more effective than treating children who are already moderately malnourished. Child stunting, underweight, and wasting—the primary indicators of malnutrition—were 4, 6, and 4 percentage points lower, respectively, among poor communities participating in preventative programs compared with those participating in recuperative ones.

As result of this study’s findings, all three private voluntary organizations (PVOs) granted a new U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Title II program in 2008 planned to adopt the preventive model (that is, blanket targeting of all children under 2 years of age, as opposed to targeting underweight children only), as recommended in IFPRI’s evaluation. World Vision has also adopted this same model in their program in other countries of Central America and in Ethiopia.

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