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Milk Matters: The Impact of Dry Season Livestock Support on Milk Supply and Child Nutrition in Somali Region, Ethiopia


About this resource

Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Keywords:Children & young people, Food and nutrition, Health, Livelihoods
Agency:Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, Save the Children, USAID - United States Agency for International Development
Author(s):Feinstein International
Date published:May 2012


Children who live in pastoralist areas are
increasingly referred to as some of the most
nutritionally vulnerable in the world. In Somali
Region, Ethiopia, levels of global acute
malnutrition among young children are regularly
reported to rise above 15 percent, the level
defined as a nutritional emergency by the World
Health Organization. Yet from work going back
many decades in the Region, we know that
animal milk, one of the most nutritionally
complete foods in the world, plays an extremely
important role in the diets of these children.
Whilst there is considerable research and early
warning literature that highlights the importance
of livestock and livestock products for the
income and the dietary intake of pastoralists in
Somali Region, there is little work that describes
use of these products within and amongst
households, or that attempts to evaluate the
significance of access to milk for the nutritional
status of children. Phase I of the Milk Matters
study investigated the value and use of milk in
these communities (Milk Matters: The Role and
Value of Milk in the Diets of Somali Pastoralist
Children in Liben and Shinile, Ethiopia).
Importantly, it established that, when available,
milk is prioritized for consumption by young
children and that the seasonal lack of access to
animals and animal products, exacerbated during
periods of drought, is widely perceived by
pastoralists as a primary factor behind child
Building off the results of this first phase, the
second phase of Milk Matters consisted of two
cohort studies designed to assess the impact of
community-defined livestock interventions on
the nutritional status of young children over the
dry season in the Somali Region of Ethiopia.
Where the international response to malnutrition
has typically been reactionary in these areas,
with the provision of a food basket and
establishment of selective feeding as acute
malnutrition rises, this study aimed to reveal the
potential cost savings, both short and long term,
economic and social, of a more preventative
approach. The results of our work demonstrate
that by targeting support to milking animals that
stay close to women and children during dry
season and/or drought, milk production and
consumption among children is improved and
their nutritional status benefits.

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