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Women dancing during a care group session for mothers, in their community in Balaka district, Malawi. Sam Vox/Save the Children

Working in partnership to empower mothers and children in Malawi so communities can thrive

This $12 million co-investment brings together a range of partners to tackle malnutrition with a holistic approach in Malawi.


  • Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
  • UK Aid
  • Save the Children
  • GiveDirectly
  • Government of Malawi


  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health & Wellbeing
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 17 - Partnership for the Goals
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action




Malawi - Ntcheu and Balaka


2021 - 2026


Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and its children, particularly those under five, suffer from high rates of malnutrition. The prevalence of stunting (where children are too short for their age) is devastatingly high at 39%. Stunting can be a life sentence – not only affecting a child’s physical growth, but their intellectual development too. This subsequently has knock on effects for wider society and economic growth.

Whilst the rate of stunting is slowly decreasing, the need to accelerate this change is critical – as many as 1.3 million children will be stunted by 2025 if the current rate of decline (just 1.4%) continues. That’s why The Power of Nutrition is convening partners to play a role in accelerating this change - supporting the health and nutrition of the most underserved mothers and children in Malawi.

A group of women stand in a plot they use to grow maize and firewood to make porridge in Zomba district, Malawi.
A group of women stand in a plot they use to grow maize and firewood to make porridge in Zomba district, Malawi. (c) Sam Vox/Save the Children

Our partnership and programme

The Power of Nutrition convened a range of partners – Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, UK Aid and implementers GiveDirectly, Save the Children and International Food Policy Research Institute to support the Government of Malawi with an innovative and holistic programme that proactively aims to reduce stunting whilst improving early childhood development. It supports the government’s existing approach to integrate nutrition with early childhood development, to ensure longer-term, sustainable progress.

The programme, named MAZIKO (meaning “Foundation” in Chichewa) has unconditional cash transfers at its core. This is an empowering way to tackle affordability as a key barrier to malnutrition and inequality. With the cost of a nutritious diet having risen by 25% in Malawi in the last year, this barrier is becoming more acute than ever. When combined with complementary interventions around early childhood development, nutrition, gender and supporting climate resilience, it creates a holistic effort to tackle the key drivers of malnutrition to support women and children to thrive.

Mothers meet to count the balance of the Village Bank” in a community in Zomba district, Malawi.
Mothers meet to count the balance of the Village Bank in a community in Zomba district, Malawi. (c) Sam Vox/Save the Children

Programme interventions

Core nutrition and health interventions

Promoting breastfeeding, complementary feeding, handwashing with soap and the management and prevention of acute malnutrition. This is supported by other services, such as distributing key supplements.

Cash transfers

Providing cash transfers for marginalised mothers, empowering them to be able to feed their families with nutritious food.

Gender equality

Promoting gender equality by organising sessions with couples to discuss gender norms to help them understand each other better and strengthen their relationship and family life.

Early childhood development

Supporting community early childhood development centres, recognising the critical window the early years offer to shape the trajectory of a child’s development and build a foundation for their future.

Climate resilience

Distributing climate resilient seeds and promoting kitchen gardens to directly tackle the impact of climate change and improve food and nutrition security.

Early signs of impact

The programme has made significant progress since it began at the end of 2022. Community-based early childhood development centres are being supported through distribution of play materials and carers are being engaged in training. More than 5,000 parents have been involved in gender dialogue sessions to discuss the distribution of labour (amongst other topics). Almost 6,000 people (the large majority women) have received cash transfers and most importantly, these cash transfers are leading to a significant decline in food insecurity: a sample survey showed that 84% of those asked reported being “hungry, but did not eat” before the transfers; after the fourth transfer this figure reduced to 31%. The intervention has also had a positive impact on mental health: before cash transfers, 38% of those surveyed reported being nervous, tense or worried; this figure dropped to 17% after receiving the fourth transfer. 8,000 people have received climate-resilient seeds, with 78% of these seeds resulting in positive growth to support food security.

A sapling growing i Patricia's family garden in Zomba district, Malawi.
A sapling growing in Patricia's family garden in Zomba district, Malawi. (c)Sam Vox/Save the Children

Progress to date


parents engaged in gender dialogue sessions


people have received climate resilient seeds

Mary and Flocy's story

There were nights when Mary went to bed hungry, sacrificing her own meal to ensure her three-year-old daughter Flocy had enough. "I'd sleep without eating," she recalled. "I was breastfeeding, the baby needs food through me, I need to eat."

Mary and her daughter Flocy, three, at their family garden in Balaka district, Malawi. Sam Vox/Save the Children
Mary and her daughter Flocy, three, at their family garden in Balaka district, Malawi. (c)Sam Vox/Save the Children

Hope emerged in the form of Maziko – a lifeline for families like Mary's, offering not just cash transfers but also invaluable guidance on nutrition and child development. With each transfer, Mary felt a weight lift from her shoulders. "It was like my life had relief," she said.

The funds weren't just a temporary fix; they were Mary's ticket to a brighter future. "My life will change when I have a house," she declared. "I want to build my own house with my savings." Mary was able to buy the bricks and materials for her house: a big moment recognised by the village Chief, who then allocated her some land.

But Maziko isn’t just about financial assistance. It is about knowledge, teaching parents like Mary how to nourish their children's bodies and minds. "Save the Children teaches us good eating habits," Mary explained. "Save the Children gave us seeds and we built gardens where we’ve grown vegetable crops… so that our children are not malnourished."

Through Maziko, Mary was able to bond with others in the community, "When we meet as parents, we teach each other how we can care for our children," she shared, "Maziko taught us how we can have a healthy and happy child."

Mary is looking to the future, "What excites me a lot is when I see my child growing from childhood to adulthood and when I see her happy."

Mary and her daughter Flocy, three, near their home in Balaka district, Malawi. Sam Vox/Save the Children
Mary and her daughter Flocy, three, near their home in Balaka district, Malawi. (c)Sam Vox/Save the Children
Nestar, three, poses with a toy made at her mother's care group toy making workshop, at her pre-school in Balaka district, Malawi. Sam Vox/Save the Children.
Children at a pre school in Balaka district Malawi. Sam Vox/Save the Children