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Inequitable access to nutritious diets, nutrition services and positive nutrition and care practices has compounded global gender inequality, undermining women’s and girls’ ability to live healthy and productive lives. It also has devastating impacts on the survival and future health of their children.

Good nutrition is fundamental for the health and wellbeing of women and girls. Well-nourished women have better health, safer pregnancies, and are more likely to access equal opportunities and participate fully in society. A mother’s nutrition status is also a powerful determinant of the survival, growth and development of her children, influencing nutrition and health status throughout life and into the next generation. The evidence is clear: insufficient nutrient intake before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding has debilitating and even deadly consequences for children.

UNICEF and partners have launched the ‘Improving Maternal Nutrition Acceleration Plan’, designed to prevent anaemia and malnutrition in pregnant women. If fully funded, the plan will reach a total of 16 million woman in 16 countries with a package of essential nutrition services by the end of 2025. The Acceleration Plan aims to fast-track the delivery of a package of essential services across 16 priority countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The essential package of services will largely be delivered via antenatal care, a critical platform for delivery of services, health promotion, and disease prevention during pregnancy. Part of the essential package of services will be the delivery of multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS), which contains 15 essential vitamins and minerals and has been proven to have significant benefits for mother and baby when taken during pregnancy.

Investing in the nutrition of women and adolescent girls via this Acceleration Plan and other initiatives will help to advance gender equality, reduce child mortality and malnutrition and ensure women and children can reach their full potential today, and for many generations to come.