Each year, WFP provides food assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 of the world’s poorest countries. Before starting an assistance programme, WFP establishes the type and quantity of food required. Nutritionally appropriate food is crucial to a successful response. Malnutrition affects millions of people around the world, with globally nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of 5 attributable to undernutrition. Canada and WFP are working together to treat malnutrition and prevent it from taking hold.
A persistent lack of adequate food and nutrition causes stunting among one quarter of the world’s children under five – about 162 million. Stunting, or chronic malnutrition, prevents them from reaching their full physical and mental potential. It can be prevented by ensuring that pregnant women and children from 6-23 months get the right nutrients for growth. WFP’s Blanket Supplementary Feeding Programme at Abu Shouk Camp in Sudan is helping 10,000 children under the age of 3 and 4,000 pregnant and nursing women get a better start in life.
Children reach their full adult potential only if they receive proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to age two. Inadequate nutrition during this critical window of opportunity leads to irreversible damage and impairment in physical growth and cognitive development.
WFP’s nutrition strategy for Bangladesh is to prioritise the first 1,000 days of life. Minara Khatun, 16, was enrolled in the Food Security for the Ultra Poor Nutrition Programme when she was pregnant. She has since delivered a healthy baby and is breastfeeding. “Since I joined the programme I feel much better, I am less weak and I have gained weight. The food I received from WFP is nutritious and it is easy to cook and eat.”
Treating and preventing malnutrition is getting easier; WFP uses a wide range of specialized foods to improve people’s nutritional intake - especially women and children. Here, a child in Mali enjoys Plumpy’sup, a ready-to-use supplementary food (peanut paste) designed to treat under 5s with moderate acute malnutrition. Trials have shown that eating a daily sachet for two months helps malnourished children recover quickly and protects them for a further four months.
Private sector support is behind WFP’s improved ability to deliver good nutrition. Public-private partnerships with companies such as Royal DSM, Unilever and organizations such as GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition), are essential to develop new and effective products. Some of these are micronutrient powders, Super Plus, fortified dates, ready-to-use foods that do not need water (often a source of contamination) and rice fortification.
Vodacom Tanzania and WFP have embarked on a partnership using “mobile money” to inform food-insecure communities about nutrition and health. Launched in 2012 in Mtwara region, the pilot project arranges for women to receive a monthly transfer to purchase healthier, more nutritious food. The cash is based on them attending a health clinic to learn about the importance of nutrition, particularly breastfeeding during a child’s first 1,000 days.
During emergencies, the young become more vulnerable and more prone to disease. Children are more likely to become malnourished in an emergency and an entire generation may fail to reach their potential, thus hampering the long-term development of their country. Thanks to donors like Canada, WFP has made significant strides in tackling malnutrition in emergencies. Here Ms. Nyachuol Geng Chul and Nyanhial Ruach Deng shelter in the UNMISS Compound in South Sudan, with food supplies from WFP.
Canada is the main sponsor of REACH, a programme targeting countries burdened by child and maternal undernutrition. Working with governments to build institutional capacity, strengthen policy planning skills and prioritize scarce resources, REACH accelerates effective responses and maximizes partnerships with UN agencies, including WFP, civil society, donors and the private sector. Canada funds REACH in 8 of the 13 countries involved, including Bangladesh, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Canada is the second largest donor to WFP school meals programmes, which provide a nutritious meal or snack to an average 22 million children in more than 60 countries every year, increasing enrolment and attendance and helping children learn more effectively. School meals aim to nurture the next generation of farmers, teachers, doctors and presidents, feeding bodies as well as minds. Over the last 45 years, 38 countries have taken over their school meals programme from WFP.
WFP’s Canadian Ambassador against Hunger, George Stroumboulopoulos, visited Haiti two years after the earthquake. “The WFP nutritional programmes I saw were very efficient, with a number of organizations working together to address the problem of malnutrition among women and children,” he said.
Measuring a child’s nutritional status with MUAC (Middle Upper Arm Circumference). Alarming malnutrition rates among displaced people in Maban County, South Sudan, are now reduced thanks to the combined efforts of health, water sanitation and nutrition partners, including WFP. Parents say they have seen dramatic improvements in their children’s health. WFP shows mothers how to prepare and use the nutritional products and instructs them on basic nutrition, health and hygiene before they receive their rations.
With a CDN$19.6 million contribution to the Right Foods at the Right Time initiative, Canada is helping WFP maximise the nutritional impact of its food assistance. WFP programming and nutrition policies are being strengthened in seven countries. For example, a CDN$2 million Canadian investment in the development of “Mi Comidita,” a fortified food supplement produced in Guatemala with support from WFP and the government, is improving the lives of mothers and children across the country.