A bowl and spoon for improved nutrition

GOOD NUTRITION IN ONE PLACE—A plate with ingredients for porridge to boost complementary feeding

By Arnold Munthali:

To some people, the plastic bowl and spoon that Foniya Eliya uses to feed her 16-month-old baby may appear like fancy utensils, with drawings that attract a child’s attention.

But to Eliya — from Nyangu Village, in the area of Traditional Authority Chimutu in Lilongwe — they are constant reminders of the nutritional needs of her child.


Since she received the bowl and the spoon in August, Eliya says feeding her baby, born in May 2021, could never have been easier.

“We were told we should use the bowl for the healthy growth of our child, and it reminds me to give her food that is suitable for her age,” Eliya says.

The bowl has good diversity messages on the rim, and tactile markings for age-appropriate portion sizes inside the bowl to address food quantity. A handwashing symbol at the bottom of the bowl illustrates the importance of hand hygiene as part of good child feeding practices.


The bowl and spoon she received are part of Unicef’s Complementary Feeding Bowl Project. The objective is to contribute toward improved quality of complementary foods for children under two-years-old.

Mike Magagula, Nutrition Facilitator for World Relief Malawi, says the project is being implemented in Dowa and Lilongwe and targeting under-five children, lactating mothers, and pregnant women.

He explains that training has been done with frontline health workers, such as health surveillance assistants (HSAs), promoters, and cluster leaders in sanitation and hygiene so that communities can reduce diseases like cholera.

“The other training was complementary feeding. When a child reaches six months, they need additional food. Breast milk is not enough, so you need to add complementary foods that include the six food groups,” he says. But the implementation of bowl-and-spoon is the real game changer in promoting nutrition for young children.

“Then there is this bowl and spoon project where we want to improve the complementary feeding because surveys showed that we are not doing well on that,” Magagula says.

Targeted households are provided with a complementary feeding toolkit that comprises a spoon, a bowl, and a counselling card.

Unicef developed the complementary feeding bowl and spoon to give caregivers a simple tool to remember nutrition messages when preparing food for their child. This will help ensure children receive a diverse and nutrient-dense diet at the right frequency.

Eliya is over the moon with the development.

“I’m still breastfeeding my baby exclusively and have also started providing her with porridge that includes a variety of nutritious foods. I am hopeful that my child will be healthy because of this,” says Eliya.

Chirwa, an HSA under Chimutu Health Centre, considers the bowl and spoon as ideal tools in the government’s efforts to deal with undernutrition in children.

“The minimum measurements in the bowl aim to deal with under-nutrition. Whether it’s full, that’s not a problem, the problem is not having enough. Our focus is to prevent undernutrition,” he says.

Health worker Layton Chirwa having a knowledge session with Chikuse care group members on the complementary feeding toolkit.

The spoon focuses on thickness of the food provided to the child.

“The bowl and the spoon help improve child nutrition because they remind the caregiver of the food groups she has to feed the child. The bowl has boundaries that help the caregiver to measure the amount of food to give the child. The right amount of food for a specific age will help the child’s nutrition because the child will take the right quantity for their age. With the bowl and the spoon, you will provide the right quantity and quality to the child,” he says.

As a health worker, Chirwa explains that the bowl and the spoon have simplified counselling about nutrition.

“If all children have been given the right food in the right amounts prepared in the right manner, all of them will be healthy. And if a child in every household is healthy, it would reduce the disease burden in the area.”

 Malawi nutrition: Facts and figures

  • Factors that contribute to malnutrition in the country include poor diets and infectious diseases that weaken the immune system and increase chances of stunted growth. Lack food remains a challenge due to frequent food and nutrition related shocks, widespread poverty and over-dependence on maize as staple food, as well as high population density and growth.
  • Good nutrition is important for wellbeing of children and is critical to achieving full physical growth. In Malawi, malnutrition still remains a serious challenge and contributes to preventable child deaths.
  • 23 percent of all child death cases in Malawi are related to under-nutrition
  • 4 percent of Malawian of under five children suffer from acute malnutrition
  • Stunted children are more likely to drop out of school and repeatedly experience lower productivity later in life.
  • The rate of appropriate complementary feeding in children 6-23 months is 8 percent
  • 8 percent of children aged 6-23 months meet the minimum acceptable diet in Malawi
  • 37 percent of children in Malawi are affected by stunting (being too short for one’s age)
  • Occurrence of anaemia in children aged 6 – 59 months is at 64 percent —Unicef Malawi

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