Skip to content Skip to footer
UNI333443 Viraj and Manasvi feb 2020 Mahrashtra

Raising the aspirations of nutrition for women and children in Maharashtra with UNICEF, the Government of Maharashtra, Norway, UBS and CIFF

A unique multisectoral programme that works hand-in-hand with the local state government to reach millions of health workers, caregivers and communities to improve the health, nutrition and wellbeing of families.


  • CIFF
  • Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
  • UBS Optimus Foundation
  • Government of Maharashtra


  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health & Wellbeing
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 17 - Partnership for the Goals
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities




India - Maharashtra


2021 - 2024


In Maharashtra, 34% of children under five years are stunted, meaning children are not reaching their growth potential because they have not received adequate nutrition during the vital early years of development and growth. These children can suffer severe irreversible physical and cognitive damage . In addition, 26% of children are wasted and 9% are severely wasted or extremely underweight and thin. These children are very vulnerable with a high risk of dying if they do not receive vital treatment as soon as possible.

There is also a huge prevalence of anaemia with 48% of women and 54% of young children deemed anaemic. This is a particular problem for pregnant women as anaemia during pregnancy increases the chances of early deliveries and low birth weight babies, which in turn is linked to mortality. Infants and children with anaemia are at increased risk of disease and developmental difficulties later in life.

Woman holds her child at a health centre.
Woman holds her child at a health centre.

Our programme

The Power of Nutrition convened a unique range of partners to co-design a large-scale sustainable programme, which builds on existing systems and services, to tackle this. UNICEF is the lead implementing partner, supported by NORAD, UBS Optimus Foundation and CIFF, along with the Government of Maharashtra's domestic resources and partnership.

All programmes in the state align with the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN 2.0), which seeks to help support women and children’s nutrition.

The programme provides technical and financial support to government-led initiatives in the region. It works closely with key stakeholders in Maharashtra to create interventions that lead to self-sustaining positive change. With this in mind, innovative new and complementary tools have been put in place to help engage women, men and children in learning about nutrition.

The programme promotes the importance of crucial practices such as breastfeeding and early childhood development. It also proactively engages fathers and their role within early childhood development to question and adapt long-established gender norms and inequalities. This is helping families to work together support each other’s nutritional needs.

Specialised support is also given to children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the paediatric wards of district hospitals as well working with medical colleges, to increase the number of children able to benefit from treatment and develop a community-based programme for treatment of wasting.

Sheetal's story

Sheetal, a participant and mother in the programme focused on exclusive breastfeeding and stimulating their baby through play and interaction. As her baby, Savee, grew, she started complementary feeding. Through the programme, Sheetal learned many recipes for nutritional diversity and leaned on her husband to co-parent.

Sheetal and family
Sheetal and Kirito with their baby Savee
Kirti is very supportive. He is a very responsive dad and boosts my confidence during breastfeeding with emotional support. He has an equal part in nurturing Savee, and he even completed online parenting courses. Savee loves to play with her dad.

Programme interventions

Vital supplementation

Providing iron and folic acid supplements for breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women and adolescent girls.

Nutrition advice

Using digital and social media to provide mothers and adolescents with nutrition support and advice.

Treatment for severe acute malnutrition

Treating children with severe acute malnutrition via community-based programmes.

Maternal support services

Encouraging parents to recognise the critical window the early years offer them to shape their child’s development and build the strongest foundation for their future.


Progress to date


Children and adolescents reached


children screened


mothers of young infants reached

This programme has gone from strength to strength, despite adaptations in the early stages of the programme due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It exemplifies the power of focusing on interventions that build on existing systems, as well as supporting additional interventions at a local level, helping to create sustainable growth on a large scale.

The infant and young child feeding, early childhood development initiatives and mobile technology support networks have helped families to feel confident in their knowledge of the best nutrition practices for their children.

The mobile technology has been expanded to health workers and caregivers, improving the quality of care in the treatment of undernutrition. There has also been a huge uptake of the newer government supported initiative of iron and folic acid supplementation and nutrition education for adolescents.

Next steps

We are looking to expand this programme to other states in India, so that many other families can have access to these innovative tools and vital health and nutrition interventions. For partnership enquiries, contact Shelley Pigott.


Photo credits

Header image: UNICEF / UNI333443 / Bhardwaj. Caption: 3.5 years old Viraj and 1.5 years old Manasvi eat nutritious food at their house in Karmad, Aurangabad.

Footer image: UNICEF / UNI318075 / Bhardwaj. Caption: 30 years old Yogesh Kulkarni scribbles with his 2 years old daughter Manyata at an Anganwadi centre in Karmad, Aurangabad.

UNI318075 Yogesh Kulkarni and daughters feb 2020 Maharashtra