WFP Bhutan partners with KOICA to promote nutrition
The Korea Government recognizes Bhutan as one of the most essential partners in the region,” said Country Director of KOICA Bangladesh and Bhutan, Mr. Joe Hyun-Gue. “Together with WFP, we are committed to contributing to Bhutan’s development in the education, health and agriculture sector, in recognition of the crucial role health and nutrition plays for human capital development. KOICA stands in solidarity with Bhutan as a development partner towards the accomplishment of the SDGs and the country’s transition into a lower middle-income country.”
The project, which will be implemented over a period from 2019 to 2023 with US$4 million funding provided by KOICA, aims to address the double burden of malnutrition by focussing on reduction of micronutrient deficiencies, as well as overnutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) related to poor diets, alcohol, tobacco and lack of physical activity. NCDs are now responsible for 69 percent of the reported disease burden in the country.
“Healthy, nutritious meals increase children’s learning capacities,” said Svante Helms, Head of Office, WFP Bhutan. “Healthy food leads to smarter children - and healthy children have better chances to thrive and fulfil their potential as adults. Investments in human capital development of children are among the most effective and productive investments a country can make.”
In support of the project implementation, WFP, together with government partners, is introducing the Menu Optimizer Tool that through an algorithm calculates the most nutrition-rich menu at the lowest cost and with the highest proportion of local food. WFP will also launch a digital game-based learning platform to support more interactive and engaging nutrition and health education for schoolchildren.
Under the guidance of the Gross National Happiness Commission, the School Health and Nutrition Division (SHND) of the Ministry of Education will be the lead implementing agency. Other partners include the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (Department of Agriculture and Department of Agricultural Marketing & Co-operatives), Ministry of Health (Nutrition Division), Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) and Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (FCBL).
- Quality of education is enhanced through safe and healthy schools that have the required infrastructure and tools to implement a School Nutrition Programme with improved school meals and integrated nutrition and health education.
- Farmers (men and women) linked to the school meals market have increased income and provide fresh food to diversify the school meals menu.
- Improved dietary and health practices among student contribute to addressing the proliferation of non-communicable diseases in Bhutanese schools, their family and community.
The integrated programme focusses on improving farmers’ income and emphasizes the importance of gender equality and how both genders have their role in breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition by bringing about behaviour change in nutrition and health practices. Linking local production to local consumption creates a stable and predictable market for local farmers, especially smallholders, many of whom are women. This creates business or entrepreneurial opportunities for farmers, impacts rural transformation and strengthens local food systems allowing school feeding to go far beyond the plate of food, producing high returns in many areas.
During the signing ceremony, WFP Bhutan also inaugurated their office expansion within the UN House. The work was led by a young Bhutanese entrepreneur who completed the assignment in just 3.5 months. The office is equipped with local furniture produced by “Adruka”, where 90 percent of the workforce are women and has double-glazed energy efficient windows designed to minimize loss of heat, thereby helping to reduce the UN’s carbon footprint in Bhutan.