Health & Nutrition

Health & Nutrition

Enabling individuals and communities to optimise their health and well-being and reach their full potential

Enabling individuals and communities to optimise their health and well-being and reach their full potential


Globally, at least 400 million people lack access to essential health services. Every year, more than one-third of them suffer financial catastrophe due to out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure. Millions more living in marginalised and resource-poor geographies still rely on unclean, unimproved water sources.

As one of AKDN’s three key agencies in health, the Aga Khan Foundation harnesses its longstanding work with communities and village organisations to enable people – particularly those living in geographically remote areas – to optimise their health and well-being, and reach their full potential.

It seeks to achieve sustainable improvements in health and nutritional status amongst vulnerable groups, especially women of childbearing age, adolescents and children under five. Its goal is to improve access and utilisation of integrated healthcare services, while enabling communities to adopt effective health practices. Worldwide, AKF supports health and nutrition services that reach over 800,000 people.

CASE STUDY: Reducing infant mortality in rural Bihar, India
Improving feeding practices among 400,000 mothers

Challenge: High neonatal and infant mortality rates in Bihar

In Bihar, India’s poorest state, less than half of the population can read or write and the per-capita income is one-third of the Indian average. Poor breastfeeding practices alone lead to 800,000 child deaths each year – almost 12% of all child deaths in the state. Out of every 1,000 infants 70 will die before they reach the age of 5; that’s 15 times higher than in the UK.

Response: Improving feeding practices

For the past three years, with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, the Aga Khan Foundation has worked with 400,000 mothers from marginalised communities to improve infant and young child feeding practices across three districts of rural Bihar: Samastipur, Muzaffarpur and Sitamarhi.

The Buniyaad programme – which means “Foundation” in Hindi – aimed to reduce Bihar’s high neonatal and infant mortality rates through optimal breastfeeding. Activities included the initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months; and introduction of appropriate complementary feeding at six months of age.

Key achievements

By raising awareness about these practices amongst households, communities, healthcare providers and policy makers, the three-year project:

  • Increased the proportion of mothers who breastfed their newborns within one hour of birth from 17% to 65%;
  • Increased the proportion of mothers who exclusively breastfed their children for the first six months  from 15% to 50%; and
  • Increased the proportion of mothers who were providing age appropriate complementary feeding to their infants at the age of 12 to 13 months from 20% to 44%.

A practical model for positive behaviour change 

A series of workshops have trained 500 women from the community, who then have educated and enabled mothers and other care-givers to ensure the survival and optimal growth of their infants by following good infant feeding practices. Complementing ongoing government programmes for maternal and child health and nutrition has been a key strategy of the project.

Lessons learned and policy implications 

To mark the end of the programme AKF hosted a one-day workshop in Patna for organisations working in the field of maternal and child health across India to discuss their key learnings and best practices of relevance for India’s policymakers. AKF is currently drawing up a policy brief on infant and young child feeding practices which will be shared with the Government of India.


The programme has significantly improved breastfeeding practices in Bihar, India’s poorest state.

A video overview of the Buniyyad project.

CASE STUDY: Building capacity and fostering leadership
Nurse training programme in East Africa


Amongst our many health programmes, here we spotlight the Aga Khan University’s nursing programme in East Africa. Supported by our long-term partners the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, nearly 2,000 nurses have graduated from the Aga Khan University nursing programme since 2001.

Bucking the ‘brain-drain’ trend, 90% of these nurses have remained in their countries after graduation and many have become leaders in the broader medical field, systemically improving the quality of the nursing to making an impact at community level through to ministry level.

Building capacity and fostering leadership

2019 marks 18 years of partnership with the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust!

Learn how our partnership is strengthening health systems in East Africa…