5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Towards Optimal Nutrition for all Women and Adolescent girls

The Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women (MDDW) in Reproductive Age indicator

Lab debate
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
09:30 to 10:45

Maternal micronutrient malnutrition is a widespread challenge faced by women living in resource-poor settings, affecting their and their children's survival and health through intrauterine growth retardation. When monotonous diets lack vegetables, fruits and animal-source foods, risk for micronutrient deficiencies is high. The Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women (MDDW) indicator is a new indicator which assesses the quality of womens diets. It was produced  with support of EU funds in 2014 and soon endorsed  and used by academia, international research institutes, UN and donor agencies. The aim of this lab debate is to share ideas with the actors involved in the production of the indicator as well as with the implementers of the indicator in the field and the funding institutions using the indicator to monitor actions.

Key points

  • Improving the quality of women's diet is the best way to stop the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition.
  • The Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women (MDDW) is a tool to address this problem.
  • MDDW has been rolled out with success in various countries, and it is welcomed by local authorities.
  • It needs to be implemented with care. There is no single MDDW and people have to be trained to use it.


Maternal micronutrient malnutrition is a widespread challenge faced by women living in resource-poor settings, the consequences of which affect not only their health and survival but also that of their children. The Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women (MDDW), produced with EU backing in 2014, is an indicator that could help address this problem. Panellists shared ideas on how MDDW can help women in need, and how it is implemented in the field.

MDDW reflects the view that women consuming foods from five or more out of 10 defined food groups are more likely to meet their micronutrient requirements than women consuming foods from fewer food groups. The food groups are: grains, white roots and tubers, and plantains; pulses; nuts and seeds; dairy; meat, poultry and fish; eggs; green leafy vegetables; and other vitamin A-rich fruit and vegetables; other vegetables and fruit.

Indicators help in the fight against stunted children and obesity. The European Commission is trying to keep nutrition high on the political agenda and is working with women of reproductive age out of the belief that dietary diversity helps prevent children’s malnutrition by preventing foetal micronutrient deficiencies during pregnancy.

The MDDW was praised as a standardised and reliable indicator that is easy to communicate, for both beneficiaries and programme workers. Criteria differ from country to country. Capacity building is essential with a five-day training needed for practitioners, and local recipes must be sampled before inclusion in the programme.

The MDDW in Chad was singled out, with its value underlined for a country with a largely rural population and a significant nomadic community.  

The European Commission is working on nutrition through the EU-funded Action on Food Security and Nutrition, billed as a multisector approach to reduce stunting with a EUR 156 million budget.


Improving women’s diets not only boosts their health and ability to work and care for their families, but also has a positive effect during pregnancy and on the health of future children.

Organised by


Estefania Custodio
Scientific Officer
European Commission - DG Joint Research Center (JRC)
Maria Antonia Tuazon
Nutrition and Food Systems Officer
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
Directeur - Direction de la Nutrition et technologies Alimentaires - Minsitère de la Santé Publique
Ministry of Public Health
Sarah Bernhardt
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
Annekathrin Rosa
GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit)
Madeleine Onclin
Director, Directorate C
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)