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National Consultancy: Formative research to understand community knowledge, attitudes and behaviour on maternal, child health and nutrition including the barriers to uptake and compliance to prenatal supplements. (Open to Malawian Nationals Only)


  • Organization: UNICEF - United Nations Children’s Fund
  • Location: Lilongwe
  • Grade: Consultancy - Consultant - Contractors Agreement
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Public Health and Health Service
    • Social Affairs
    • Legal - Broad
    • Nutrition
    • Children's rights (health and protection)
    • Sexual and reproductive health
    • Civil Society and Local governance
    • Scientist and Researcher
    • Ombudsman and Ethics
    • Innovations for Sustainable Development
  • Closing Date: 2024-07-18

The purpose of the assignment is to generate data and information that will guide the formulation of user generated social and behaviour change strategy that are participatory, gender transformative, sensitive to diverse cultural or religious context, inclusive of marginalized groups that foster community ownership for optimal maternal and child health and nutrition practices. Information to be generated should also assist with the design of creative strategies for message and materials development and media engagement.The study will also provide evidence on the barriers and enablers to uptake of maternal supplements, specifically IFA and MMS, and make suggestions on what needs to be done for maternal nutrition programming during the piloting a new maternal supplement and programme scale up.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. 

Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. 

And we never give up. 

For every child, protection...

Developing Social and Behaviour Change (SBC) interventions require a good understanding of the policy environment, context, social norms, gender and household power dynamics, cultural beliefs and practices and the overall perceptions of the targeted populations to adopt the desired practices. Understanding of a family and community context is critical in promoting adoption of optimal nutrition practices. While efforts have been made in the country through creation of an enabling environment through development of Multisectoral Nutrition Policies and Strategy (2018-2022) and the Scaling Up Nutrition- Nutrition Education and Counselling Strategy II (2024-2029) to promote adoption of key family practices, there are still gaps that exist requiring a deeper understanding of the barriers and norms. Maternal malnutrition is one of the key determinants of poor pregnancy outcomes exacerbated by food insecurity, poverty, barriers to adequate antenatal care and lack of micronutrients which increase during pregnancy. In Malawi, nearly one in three (32.7 per cent) women of reproductive age have anaemia.  7.2 per cent are thin (Malawi Demographic Health Survey -MDHS2015-16), 63 per cent are zinc deficient, 12.9 per cent are deficient of vitamin B12 and 7.6 per cent have folate deficiency (MNS 2015-16). Slightly over 1 in 10 children (11.6 per cent) are born with low birth weight. While the proportion of women who received antenatal care (ANC) is high (95 per cent), only 24 per cent of women attend ANC during the first trimester of pregnancy and only 51 per cent complete four or more visits (MDHS 2015-16). Data also shows that Malawi is off track in meeting the 2025 World Health Assembly target of reducing maternal anaemia by 50 per cent (Development initiatives, Global Nutrition Report 2020).

Following World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and thresholds for pregnant women, the Malawi Government has been providing iron and folic acid supplements to prevent maternal anaemia, low birth weight and pre-term birth. Findings from the Policy and Programme Landscape on Maternal Nutrition in Eastern and Southern Africa Countries of 2019 show that Malawi has a good policy environment on maternal nutrition adopting 11 out of 16 WHO recommendations, with over 75 per cent district coverage of maternal interventions including counselling on healthy eating, daily Iron Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation, malaria treatment and antenatal care models with a minimum of eight contacts.

How can you make a difference? 

Using the social ecological model to behaviour change and human centered designing approach to understanding behaviours, the formative study will seek to understand but not limited to the following:

  • Assess the community and family perspectives towards maternal and child health and nutrition including understanding who is responsible for maternal and child health and nutrition and the role of the extended family in maternal and child health and nutrition.
  • Identify barriers to uptake of optimal nutrition and health behaviours among women of childbearing age including what are the challenges that women face that hinder them from practicing and sustaining optimal maternal and child health and nutrition practices.
  • Describe the perceptions, women’s agency and social norms related to maternal and children’s diets including understanding the social norms around diets for pregnant women, community norms on nutrient dense foods and access to diversified foods for pregnant women.
  • Describe how, when and where women access prenatal supplements including an understanding on which supplements are available, accessibility, usability and challenges with where the women access the supplements.
  • Understand enablers and barriers to compliance of IFA tablets.
  • Determine the process and enabling factors, attitudes, influences and agency that women follow to decide whether to attend ANC and use a prenatal supplement.
  • Understand how women manage the side effects associated with IFA and community perceptions of IFA over time.
  • Understand the existing quality of nutrition counselling, who provides the counselling and how it facilitates/deters women’s agency for the adoption of desired maternal and child nutrition and health practices.
  • Provide recommendations on designing at scale gender responsive maternal and child nutrition social and behaviour change programme addressing acceptance, hesitancy leading to the empowerment of adolescent and women in decision making.

To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have… 

Academic qualification:

  • Advanced University Degree in Nutrition, Public Health, Health Sciences, Social sciences including anthropology, global/international health and nutrition.

Work experience:

  • Minimum of 10 years of documented work experience in conducting quantitative and qualitative social and behavioural research with a focus on maternal and child nutrition and hygiene, including experience in conducting anthropology and barrier analysis studies.
  • Demonstrated recent work experience in formative, operational research, data management and analyses. and forumaling recommendations for social and behavioural change.
  • Substantive knowledge on maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition (MNCHN), early child development and WASH-nutrition linkages.
  • Solid understanding of social behaviour change and issues in Malawi.
  • Competent in using statistical packages for quantitative and qualitative analyses.
  • Relevant experience in a UN system agency or organization is considered as an asset.
  • Familiarity with UNICEF nutrition programmes and frameworks is considered an asset. 

Technical skills, knowledge and strength areas:

  • Knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods, including their appropriate applications and limitations
  • Ability to design studies that effectively address research questions and proficiency in selecting appropriate sampling methods and calculating sample sizes to ensure representative and unbiased results.
  • Ability to conduct participant observation and other ethnographic methods to gather contextual data
  • Ability to work effectively in a diverse and multi-cultural team to achieve goals.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, and excellent presentation skills. Proven experience in producing high-quality documents ready for external dissemination.
  • Good facilitating, negotiating, communication and advocacy skills


  • Excellent analytical and writing capacity in English. 

Please refer to the attached full Terms of Reference Download File Terms of Reference_Formative Research.pdf for more details on the consultancy and requirements.

For every Child, you demonstrate… 

UNICEF's values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, Accountability, and Sustainability (CRITAS).  

To view our competency framework, please visit  here.   

UNICEF is here to serve the world’s most disadvantaged children and our global workforce must reflect the diversity of those children. The UNICEF family is committed to include everyone, irrespective of their race/ethnicity, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socio-economic background, or any other personal characteristic.

UNICEF offers reasonable accommodation for consultants/individual contractors with disabilities. This may include, for example, accessible software, travel assistance for missions or personal attendants. We encourage you to disclose your disability during your application in case you need reasonable accommodation during the selection process and afterwards in your assignment. 

UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF also adheres to strict child safeguarding principles. All selected candidates will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles and will therefore undergo rigorous reference and background checks. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check. 


Interested Individual Consultant should provide the following:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Brief technical proposal (no longer than five pages) demonstrating the consultant’s understanding of the assignment and approach/methodology to the assignment.
  • Name and brief background of the consultant, including existing experience and expertise that will be of benefit to the proposed study.
  • Background information that includes an interpretation and understanding of the terms of reference
  • Methodology and approach outlining a clear conceptual and analytical framework for the study including alternatives or suggestions to the proposed design.
  • Proposed work plan outlining clear timeframe and steps in conducting the assignment.
  • Expectations from UNICEF in terms of logistical, technical, and other forms of support for the evaluation and its products
  • Names and contact information for the 3 most recent customer references for relevant projects and/or samples of relevant work done.
  1. Financial proposal including a breakdown of their all-inclusive fees (including professional fees, travel, living cost and other costs). Complete the attached form. Download File ANNEX I - Financial Proposal.xlsx
  1. References details


Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process. 

Individuals engaged under a consultancy or individual contract will not be considered “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures and will not be entitled to benefits provided therein (such as leave entitlements and medical insurance coverage). Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants and Individual Contractors. Consultants and individual contractors are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws. 

The selected candidate is solely responsible to ensure that the visa (applicable) and health insurance required to perform the duties of the contract are valid for the entire period of the contract. Selected candidates are subject to confirmation of fully-vaccinated status against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) with a World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed vaccine, which must be met prior to taking up the assignment. It does not apply to consultants who will work remotely and are not expected to work on or visit UNICEF premises, programme delivery locations or directly interact with communities UNICEF works with, nor to travel to perform functions for UNICEF for the duration of their consultancy contracts. 

We do our best to provide you the most accurate info, but closing dates may be wrong on our site. Please check on the recruiting organization's page for the exact info. Candidates are responsible for complying with deadlines and are encouraged to submit applications well ahead.
Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.