At least one billion people worldwide are persons with disabilities—53 million of them are children. Additionally, roughly 25 percent of all children have a feeding difficulty; this increases to between 33 and 80 percent among children with disabilities. Malnutrition can both cause and be a result of disabilities, and poor nutrition is a leading cause of early mortality among children with disabilities. Good nutrition is, therefore, particularly important for the development and survival of children with feeding difficulties and disabilities. The numbers cited here only begin to tell the story of the need for inclusive nutrition programming. In low- and middle-income countries, services for children with disabilities and feeding difficulties are not widespread, and most nutrition programming does not consider their needs.
Scoping Review and Recommendations
In 2021, to better understand nutritional programming for this population, USAID Advancing Nutrition conducted a scoping review that examined nutrition programs and services for children with disabilities and feeding difficulties (published results forthcoming). The review culminated in a set of four recommendations to improve nutritional care of such children:
- Strengthen systems to improve identification and service provision
- Provide direct support to families to address social determinants that affect nutrition outcomes
- Conduct advocacy to raise awareness of needs and opportunities
- Build the evidence base on effective interventions to identify and support the children and their families.
A USAID Advancing Nutrition advocacy brief (available in English, French, and Spanish) summarizes the findings and includes a call for policymakers to strengthen systems to improve the care of children with feeding difficulties and disabilities.
Feeding and Disability Resource Bank
We also launched the Feeding and Disability Resource Bank, an online repository of practical resources available to address feeding difficulties and disability inclusion in nutrition programs. The resource bank also showcases original illustrations of children with disabilities and their families, which are available for download and use through the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Image Bank.
Virtual Convening of Global Stakeholders
In 2023, USAID Advancing Nutrition and UNICEF co-hosted a virtual convening of global stakeholders in nutrition, health and disability programming, advocacy, and research to discuss future areas for learning and action. Development of the resource bank and planning for the convening was guided by a technical advisory group of people with lived experience of disability.
To contribute to the Feeding and Disability Resource Bank, or for questions about this work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.