We hear it often, but it remains true – a healthy mother means a healthy child. And they both need the right support to protect their well-being – from access to affordable, quality healthcare to good nutrition practices to clean water.  

It is an incredible achievement that child mortality has decreased by half since 2000, from 9.9 million children under five who died from largely preventable causes, to 4.9 million in 2022. While children, newborns and mothers have greater chances of survival today than 20 years ago, pregnancy, birth-related complications and diseases continue to claim the lives of mothers and children every day.  

UNICEF is committed to addressing the needs of mothers, newborns and children. We work closely with governments, partners, communities and parents themselves to help ensure mothers and children remain healthy and happy.  

On Mother’s Day, a look at how UNICEF is supporting moms and their children around the world. 

A mother in Sudan holds her two infants in her lap. Both children are holding RUTF sachets and the mother is looking down and smiling at the children.
[© UNICEF/UNI492251/Mohamdeen]

Arafa Musa cuddles her twin daughters Mawada and Mushtaha while waiting for their review at Dar Al-Salam health facility in Port Sudan. Mawada is severely acute malnourished while Mushtaha moderately acute malnourished. Both children are enrolled on the UNICEF-supported outpatient therapeutic program for malnutrition care and treatment. 

Arafa thought the food she provided her children was nutritious enough to support their growth. She would later learn that the children needed nutrient-rich foods to grow and develop. 

“I fed them what we eat at home,” Arafa explained. 

As part of the treatment, Arafa receives weekly rations of the ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF). The supply chain of the nutrition supplies and the continuous delivery of nutrition services is maintained by UNICEF with funding from ECHO and other donors. 

In Sudan, as war continues and with clashes spreading across more states in the country, over 730,000 children with severe acute malnutrition are at high risk of not surviving without treatment.

A mother holds her child on her lap, both are smiling.
[© UNICEF/UNI553464/Pouget]

Berhane Lemmesa navigates the journey of motherhood together with the support of UNICEF’s healthcare guidance. 

 "When I was five months pregnant Mintesinot, I fell severely ill. Fever and flu-like illness with chills, headache, muscle soreness, and extreme tiredness were among the symptoms I felt at the beginning. Luckily, a community volunteer told me to seek medical treatment at a health center.  The diagnosis was malaria, and I was overcome with worry as I struggled to eat due to my illness. The health worker told me that malaria in pregnancy can lead to anemia. Furthermore, he advised me to continue taking multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) while taking the anti-malaria drug. Thankfully, with timely treatment and care, I recovered. Today, both Mintesinot and I are healthy, and I am deeply grateful for that," Says Berhane.  

Berhane emphasizes the invaluable guidance she received from healthcare workers, particularly regarding infant care and nutrition. "I’m grateful for the advice provided by healthcare workers on how to care for my child, including feeding practices and necessary vaccinations. Their counseling has been instrumental in shaping my approach to motherhood. Following their guidance, I exclusively breastfed Mintesinot for the first six months and will continue until he is two years old, gradually introducing water and solid foods. It's evident in his vibrant health that the recommendations have been invaluable." 

UNICEF and partners have launched the ‘Improving Maternal Nutrition Acceleration Plan’, designed to prevent anemia and malnutrition in pregnant women, so more women like Berhane can have healthy pregnancies and children. 

A nurse measure an infant's head with a measuring tape, as the child's mother holds the child close to her face with their noses touching. Only the nurses arms can be seen in the photo, with the mother and child in focus in center.
[© UNICEF/UNI414276/Vashkiv]

Three-month-old Lev and his mother Valeriya live in Korostyshiv, a city in the Zhytomyrska region of Ukraine. After giving birth, first-time mother Valeriya had many questions about care, vaccinations and breastfeeding. So, she was relieved when home nurse Maryna Diharieva was assigned to visit the family thanks to a partnership between the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and UNICEF. 

"Recently, we were teething, so I needed professional advice,” says Valeriya. “The home nurse was always in contact, even at 11 in the evening. In my view, her service is crucial.” 

Maryna visits Valeriya and Lev every two months. She works at the Primary Health Care Center (PHC) in the Korostyshiv district and has been working with children for over 30 years. 

As part of the Home Visiting Program, Maryna and her nursing colleagues visit families with children in their homes to assess the child's condition and development, help to create a safe environment for the child and advise parents. 

Under the initiative, specialists known as patronage nurses visit families ten times in the first three years of a child’s life. If the specialist notices any risks, they draw up a plan and visit the family more often.  

[© UNICEF/UN0820020/Bidel]

Mokhtar, 4 years old, sits at home with his mother, Zahra, in Mazar, northern Afghanistan. He has just eaten a meal which his mother supplemented with UNICEF-provided micronutrient powders. 

“Mokhtar used to be weak and was frequently sick. I went to the clinic and the doctor gave me these powders, and she told me it makes a good food supplement for my child,” says Zahra. 

“She also taught me how to use these powders by mixing them into Mokhtar’s food, and she told me it will help fight and prevent malnutrition.” 

“I was happy to hear this, but at first I did not believe her. But after using these powders for just a short time, my son is happier and more energetic. I feel he is healthy now and I am very grateful for this.” UNICEF provides micronutrient powders to children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. 

The powders are given to parents by community health workers through the health posts in their village. In some cases, community health workers also go door-to-door, ensuring children who really need the micronutrient powders are not missed if their parents cannot reach the health post. 

These micronutrient powders are designed to address micronutrient deficiencies, including anemia, adding critical vitamins and minerals to a child’s food and improving the quality of their diets. The powders prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies in places where families cannot afford or access diverse and nutritious foods.