Milk Matters: A Literature Review of Pastoralist Nutrition and Programming Responses

Children across pastoralist/semi pastoralist areas of the horn of Africa are often referred to as some of the most nutritionally vulnerable in the world. The dominant response from the international community to malnutrition in these areas continues to be the delivery of large quantities of food aid each time rains fail and rates of acute malnutrition peak. Despite acceptance of the urgent need for risk reduction and drought mitigation there is still little understanding of the causes of malnutrition, and which interventions in the medium to long term should be prioritized to improve the health and nutritional status of children in these settings.

Part of the Save the Children’s African Region Pastoral Initiative, ‘Milk Matters’ is a joint venture between the Feinstein International Center, Save the Children USA and Save the Children UK in Ethiopia. ‘Milk Matters’ ultimately aims to improve nutritional programming for children in pastoralist/semi pastoralist areas in the horn of Africa. This literature review is one component of the first phase of the project. Broad themes investigated in the review include:

  • The epidemiology and causes of malnutrition in children in pastoralist communities; including debate on how we measure malnutrition in these communities;
  • The role of milk and milk products in the diets of pastoralists and the critical contribution it makes to improving dietary quality for women and young children;
  • Key interventions that have aimed to improve access to human and animal milk in pastoralist regions and their impact on the nutritional status of children.