China: Improving nutrition and food safety for China's most vulnerable women and children


China’s impressive progress on reducing hunger has relied mainly on increasing incomes and food production. But massive disparities exist across geographical areas: in 2003-2005, 120 million Chinese from poor areas were undernourished. The prevalence of stunting and low weight for children under 5 in rural areas was 3 to 4 times higher than in urban areas during the period 1990-2010.

Inadequate feeding practices and poor food safety compromise the gains made to date in child health and nutrition. The Joint Programme focused on an at-risk population of approximately 1.2 million children and women of child-bearing age by piloting a comprehensive approach to food security and child and maternal nutrition in six of China's poorest counties. In one intervention which provided 13,300 children with nutritional packets, stunting and anemia decreased by more than a third and underweight by more than half.

Specifically, the programme aimed to:

  1. Improve data on women and children’s food security and nutrition through a baseline study and mainstreaming of internationally recognized nutrition indicators in national maternal child health surveillance exercises. 
  2. Improve nutrition by promoting exclusive breastfeeding for six months, providing nutritional supplements for women and children, and formulating a national food fortification strategy. 
  3. Improve food safety, especially for child nutrition products, by introducing international standards, supporting implementation of the new food safety law, and raising awareness of food safety issues through schools, consumer groups, women’s groups and the media.
  4. Gather the evidence gained through demonstration projects in the pilot counties to build an advocacy package aimed at persuading policymakers to scale up interventions.

Main achievements were:

  • The programme led to a number of new working mechanisms and models, such as the newly established China Food Safety Law Research Center, the training of judges for criminal cases involving food safety, the exploration of ways to combine agricultural development and nutrition education, and collaboration among women’s associations, health inspection institutes and broadcasting stations in pilot counties to promote food safety laws. 100 journalists were trained in child food safety and nutrition.
  • The programme produced high quality baseline survey and final survey reports, and developed a set of surveillance indicators for the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.
  • Interventions with Ying Yang Bao nutritional packets reached 13,298 children (aged 6-23 months) and showed significant results, with stunting and anemia decreased by more than a third and underweight by more than half.
  • Rural households increased their consumption of micronutrient-rich food by 41.3% in areas where the programme supported agricultural interventions.


Click for more detailed results from the Joint Programmes in China.


The Joint Programme in action


Programme Dates 04 Dec 2009 - 30 Apr 2013
Net funded amount $6,000,000
Participating UN agencies FAO, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNIDO, WFP, WHO
National partners Ministry of Health, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Education and education system, Ministry of Agriculture, as well as local media
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