In early September, WFP nutrition focal points and their government counterparts from 18 countries across West Africa gathered in Dakar for a four-day workshop.
“The goal of the workshop was to improve the quality of nutrition activities in the region by getting the participants up to date on the latest nutrition evidence and WFP strategies,” said Kinday Samba, WFP Senior Regional Nutrition Advisor for West Africa.
The informational session topics included overviews on global nutrition findings and initiatives, new nutrition products and how to strengthen programmes to treat moderate wasting and prevent wasting and stunting.
This year’s workshop saw an increased focus on stunting, indicated by low height-for-age, a major problem in West Africa, where more than 10 million children are stunted.
The workshop was interactive, with a particular focus on adult learning methods and practical activities following the informational sessions.
“Participants had the chance to practice skills learned during the workshop and then to adapt them to their countries’ specific contexts,” said Anna Horner, WFP Regional Nutrition Advisor for West Africa and one of the co-organisers.
One exercise was how to correctly estimate the number of beneficiaries for different types of nutrition activities.
“Governments can think we’re being stingy. It is good for them to see how we get our figures,” said Marian Bangura, WFP Nutrition Officer in Sierra Leone, adding that she found the workshop “empowering”.
“It gives us the chance to ask questions we’ve had on our mind for some time and enables us to make decisions back home,” she added.
The workshop, funded by a grant from Luxembourg, was an opportunity to share experiences. The nutrition focal points from Chad and Niger held a roundtable discussion on nutrition activities in their respective countries, generating animated discussion on the challenge of assisting nomadic communities.
Participants also had the chance to look at, and even taste, the newest nutrition products - a first for some.
“We talk about these products but some of them I hadn’t seen before, like the Nutributter,” said Kou Tiawan Baawo, Director at the Nutrition Division of the Ministry of Health in Liberia.
The workshop culminated with a simulation. In country teams, participants had to design a nutrition project for a fictitious West African country with high levels of stunting and wasting but in a non-emergency setting.
In recent years, nutrition has become an increasingly high priority for WFP, with the 2008 Strategic Plan placing heavy emphasis on both nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific activities. This renewed focus on nutrition has been particularly marked in West Africa, where the malnutrition rates are amongst the highest in the world.
In his closing remarks at the workshop, WFP West Africa Deputy Regional Director Claude Jibidar described malnutrition figures in the region as “catastrophic.”
“We want to see effective nutrition activities that make real change for children and their families in West Africa. It is our responsibility,” he said.