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Other than mothers: engaging men in IYCF practices


Alive & Thrive



Child stunting caused by improper nutrition is a significant problem in Ethiopia. Although women are primarily responsible for daily child care, the root causes of malnutrition extend beyond their sphere of influence. Husbands determine household food access, and often prefer to sell high-quality items. Households are highly influenced by mothers-in-law and religious leaders, who may promote feeding practices that do not incorporate diverse nutrients. Interventions must address social, gender and economic barriers to proper nutrition, while creating a demand for proper nutrition within the entire household and broader community.


HDI partnered with the local advertising agency Astar to implement a market-driven campaign that not only informed families of proper feeding practices, but created a demand for them. This campaign targeted multiple spheres of influence that inform household-level feeding practices. To enhance Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), this approach:

  • Conducted insight mining to reveal values, aspirations, and constraints of target audiences.

  • Fathers express a desire for a “smart and strong” child and value being respected in their communities.

  • Mothers desire what is best for children, but face limited knowledge, time and agency to make decisions regarding IYCF.

  • Developed a multi-media campaign that targeted fathers, using relatable agricultural analogies to communicate the value of strong feeding practices.

  • Linked benefits of early and exclusive breastfeeding to the importance of “calf’s first milk”; associated crop rotation with benefits of food variety in a child’s diet.

  • Created value by promoting the idea that “What I can do for my crops and cattle, I can do for my child.”

  • Linked proper nutrition to children that are “smart and strong”.

  • Developed materials for local health workers to educate mothers and communities, including schools.

  • Conveyed the benefits of early and exclusive breastfeeding while providing guidelines for supplementary feeding from 6-12 months.


In program areas, 68% of couples reported having discussions specifically focused on child feeding, and 53% of fathers provided money to purchase special food for children. In addition, 70% of mothers reported that their husbands provided support for IYCF practices.

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