In Africa south of the Sahara, including Malawi, an estimated 61 percent of children below the age of five are developmentally challenged as a result of poverty, malnutrition, and lack of early stimulation and learning opportunities. Early-childhood development (ECD) programmes, which aim to improve young children’s survival, health and development are considered one of the most cost-effective human capital investments that can be provided by governments particularly when compared to subsequent schooling interventions. Community-based Childcare Centres (CBCCs) are a key element of ECD programs in Malawi. CBCCs serve 3–5-year-olds by promoting holistic child development through provision of safe and stimulating environments, access to health and nutrition services, and capacity building for parents and caregivers. In Malawi, there are an estimated 11,000 CBCCs across the country, but many are not functional. Lack of food provision at the CBCC leads to high rates of absenteeism and is considered one of the main reasons for the closing of CBCCs. To address this, Save the Children in partnership with Chancellor College-University of Malawi developed an integrated agriculture-nutrition package that was implemented alongside the standard ECD component. This included activities to promote nutritious food production and consumption, promotion of optimal feeding and caring practices, and engagement with parents in pre-school meal planning and preparation.
The Nutrition Embedded Evaluation Program Impact Evaluation (NEEP-IE) cluster randomized control trial aimed to assess the effectiveness of implementing an agriculture and nutritional intervention through CBCCs in Malawi. This newly published paper presents the impact results of this control trial, focusing on child development outcomes of pre-school children during a 12 months intervention period.
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