Lack of Funds Threatens Fight Against Malnutrition in Burkina Faso

Each year during the lean season—also known as the “hunger season”—the World Food Programme (WFP) carries out a number of activities in Burkina Faso to prevent malnutrition, efforts that have proven effective in the fight against hunger. Due to a lack of funding, however, the programme has been reduced and could be suspended completely this year.

While malnutrition is treatable, the disease can cause irreversible damage to the physical and mental development of a child. Children affected by malnutrition get sick more frequently and are less productive as adults.

The latest assessment in Burkina Faso, carried out by WFP in 2013, revealed a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 8.2 percent, with levels reaching 14 percent in some regions.

Due to high levels of malnutrition, nearly one in three children suffers from growth retardation. Eight in ten are anemic, as are more than half of pregnant women. Women deficient in iron face a high risk of dying during childbirth and may give birth to a child that will not reach the age of five.

Since 2013, WFP supports government efforts to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition. These interventions are carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health through health centers and NGOs, to the benefit of vulnerable groups in seven of the twelve regions of the country where levels of acute malnutrition and household food insecurity are high.

To fight malnutrition, WFP treats moderate acute malnutrition among children less than five years of age with ready-to-use therapeutic foods, called Plumpy’sup. Wrapped in individual packages, these bars are made with peanut butter and are high in energy, protein and micronutrients. In addition, they can be eaten without cooking or other preparation, which helps to avoid illnesses caused by using dirty water. Pregnant women and nursing mothers receive flour made with grains and soy and rich in vitamins and minerals.

WFP also distributes food to women accompanying children hospitalized due to severe malnutrition and related complications. These rations encourage caretakers to stay with their children at health centers throughout treatment.

During the lean season, WFP also carries out a general food distribution programme targeting all children between six months and two years of age in areas where malnutrition levels are high.

WFP’s nutrition programme in Burkina is primarily financed by the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. Thanks to this support, the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition among children under five years of age has decreased, from 10.9 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent in 2013.

This year, however, WFP was forced to scale back its activities due to a lack of funding. Zones of invention were reduced by 60 percent, excluding some 300,000 people from the programme. Malnutrition prevention activities are also compromised this year due to a lack of financing.

To continue efforts over the next six months, WFP requires USD 10.2 million. Without new contributions, all WFP nutrition interventions could be suspended as the lean season (July to September) begins.