Pakistan: Battling Malnutrition Amid Access Challenges

In his ongoing look at how WFP uses nutritional products in emergency situations, WFP programming officer Guillaume Foliot looks at the solutions found in the wake of the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan last summer, when access was a major challenge.

ROME -- After the extensive monsoon flooding in Pakistan not only the provision of food but also of specific nutritional assistance was crucial for the survival of millions of people. Though the emergency situation created an environment where access continues to be limited WFP was able to introduce supplementary feeding programmes for particularly vulnerable populations alongside the general food distribution.

Challenges through Limited Access

Implementing nutritional interventions in Pakistan has proven very challenging due to the huge number of affected people, the immense damage and severe access problems after the devastating floods. The only way to introduce a large-scale blanket supplementary feeding programme aimed at preventing malnutrition was through the general food basket distribution. 

The general food basket, consisting of fortified wheat flour and oil, is designed for a family of seven people. In addition, it contains one ration of ready-to-use supplementary food (Plumpy’Doz or a similar local product) for a child under the age of two as well as two rations of high-energy biscuits for children aged 2–12 years. The huge scale and complexity of the disaster did not allow for further nutritional interventions at the beginning of the emergency operation. 

Targeted Supplementary Feeding

By mid-October WFP had reached about 2 million children aged between 6 months and 12 years through the blanket feeding programme. However, there were also increases in the incidence of severe and moderate malnutrition reported in some flood-affected areas, particularly among young children. As soon as access conditions improved, WFP together with UNICEF started to implement a targeted supplementary feeding programme. It provides nutritional support in form of Supplementary Plumpy and other fortified food to more than 12,000 young children and pregnant and lactating women through established medical facilities.