Celebrating International Women’s Day and One Year of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium
Watch Agurash’s Story:
“My wife is a wife of a farmer, so she doesn’t rest”, remarks Agurash’s husband Tesfaye Abate. Agurash, a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy, from Habru, Ethiopia, recounts her unquantifiable roles as a wife, mother, food provider, and income earner. She works bent on the farm all day, walks miles to fetch water, while carrying her unborn child with an ache in her back, breathless and light-headed, which makes the journey arduous. She prepares a meal of teff flour pancakes and pulses for her husband and three children, but barely eats herself, putting their needs before hers.
“A good wife is like a lioness”, her husband shares. But does she get the lion’s share of the food?
Agurash is not alone. Millions of women worldwide do not have access to a nutritious diet, which is either unavailable or unaffordable to them, even during pregnancy, when they need it the most. Eating last and least to feed their families, they live on leftovers, putting themselves and their unborn children at risk of malnutrition and its severe consequences – still births, pre-term births, low birth weight babies, even death.
Children born deprived of critical nutrients suffer from both physical and cognitive impairments which impact their future potential because of poor school performance and reduced productivity and earnings.
Access to safe and healthy food is critical to improve the nutrition status of these vulnerable women. When diets are limited in both quantity and quality, prenatal nutrient supplements can help improve maternal nutrition and prevent adverse birth outcomes of their newborns.
Over twenty years of research has shown that Multiple Micronutrient Supplements (MMS) improves maternal nutrition and significantly reduces the risk of babies born with low birth weight, or being small for gestational age, and stillbirths . MMS may also have long term benefits for child cognition.
If MMS were to reach 90% of pregnant women across 132 low and middle-income countries (LMICs), then it is estimated that an additional 5.02 million school years and $18.1 billion in cumulative lifetime income would be gained per birth cohort.
The Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium (HMHB), launched on 10th March 2021, is striving to improve maternal nutrition worldwide, specifically through accelerating the adoption of MMS in vulnerable populations.
In the 2021 Year of Action on Nutrition, HMHB advanced a compelling and evidence-driven new agenda on the transformative potential of MMS with clear and measurable achievements. The inclusion of MMS in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Essential Medicine’s List (EML) further propelled the Consortium’s mission.
The Consortium joined global partners to elevate women’s nutrition and equity in the UN Food Systems and Nutrition for Growth Summits and advocated for investments in maternal nutrition and MMS with global and national leaders, donors and key decision-makers.
With a growing membership, broader reach, and its ABC approach: Advocacy; Brokering Knowledge and Convening, the Consortium unifies and amplifies the voices of individuals and organizations through advocacy, alignment around one common agenda, convening and consensus-building, sharing resources and knowledge.
HMHB aims to elevate the voices of women like Agurash to share their lived experience and portray their challenges in accessing healthy foods and nutrition services.
On this International Women’s Day, HMHB is launching the first of the series of these films on Women’s Voices. Watch the film, Women’s Voices from Ethiopia here.
Today, International Women’s Day, let’s commit to putting women first.