Designing more effective interventions to prevent childhood stunting: Evidence from Nigeria


Published 27.01.21
Photo credit:
Uganda. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank

Bundling interventions that offer parents health information along with cash transfers might yield more sustainable changes in early-life health outcomes for children

Read “The impacts of a multifaceted pre-natal intervention on human capital accumulation in early life” by Pedro Carneiro, Lucy Kraftman, Giacomo Mason, Lucie Moore, Imran Rasul and Molly Scott here.

Children’s height has been found to be correlated with several later-life outcomes such as educational attainment or labour market performance. However, nutritionally deprived babies born in low-income settings exhibit signs of severe stunting — sometimes by as much as two standard deviations below international height norms for their age. How early in a child’s life can we effectively intervene to prevent stunting?

In a new working paper, a group of researchers present their findings from an RCT in northern Nigeria and show that this could be as early as conception. In this VoxDevTalk, Imran Rasul, one of the paper’s co-authors, discusses findings and the design of their unique social experiment that aimed to target early-childhood stunting in-utero to see whether it could affect children’s long-term health and height outcomes. Their intervention provided both parents with information on nutrition and healthcare, and offered mothers unconditional cash transfers of US$20 per month from conception through the first two years of the child’s life. This combination yielded results that ranged from a long-term reduction in stunting among children by as much as 8%, as well as significant knowledge gain and behavioural change among parents in the treatment group. This gives hope for interventions that bundle information campaigns with resource transfers which can be more effective than offering either treatment alone.