A variety of interventions have been implemented to improve maternal and child health in North Africa. Whilst these have resulted in progress in combatting under- and over-nutrition, the rate of improvement has been slow. To provide additional information on the current applied nutrition research to facilitate evidence-based program design, we analysed peer-reviewed published articles from 2005-2015 on interventions that affect maternal and child health in North Africa. These included supplementation, fortification or nutrition education interventions.
Using PubMed/Web of Science/ Cochrane Library, the following terms were searched: âmalnutritionâ, âwastingâ, âunderweightâ, âstuntingâ, âoverweightâ, âobesityâ, âironâ, âvitamin Aâ, âiodineâ and âzincâ, each linked with the terms âinfantsâ, âchildrenâ, âpregnant womenâ, âmother-child pairsâ and âNorth Africaâ. Studies that included single interventions, educational interventions or multi-component interventions and were in English were eligible for review. In addition, bibliographies of identified articles were searched.
In total, 22 unique articles (of 530 articles) were identified for the review. Most research focused on children above 5y and micronutrient deficiencies, primarily vitamin A and iron, with fortification as the intervention approach. In 5 studies, effect of nutrition education or behavioural counselling on growth measures was assessed. Majority of the studies were from Morocco or Egypt, in school-based settings, were efficacy studies and with 3-12 months intervention. Only 2 of the studies reviewed included multi-component interventions. Majority of the studies reported improvements in maternal and child nutrition.
Our findings indicate that fortification and education work in improving nutrition situation. However, the persistent presence of malnutrition suggests that whilst solitary interventions demonstrate improvements, comprehensive approaches may be warranted to accelerate progress.