|Reaching Mothers and Children at Critical Times of their Lives (WFP)|
|POLICY ISSUES AND OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES|
14. There are critical times in human life when the potential to break the inter-generational cycle of hunger is greatest. Many poor women cannot meet their additional food needs during pregnancy and nursing. Infants require nutritionally adequate and safe foods to complement breast milk after some six months. The critical food needs for women and children include nutrients such as protein and micronutrients (especially vitamin A and minerals such as iron and iodine) in addition to energy.
15. The key indicators to assess the magnitude of critical food needs of these groups include: incidence of low birth weight (LBW) and rates of maternal mortality (MMR), infant mortality (IMR), under five mortality (U5MR) and under five malnutrition. Nutrition and health indicators (including data on micronutrient deficiencies) are usually available from sources such as WHO, UNICEF or the national ministry of health.
16. To assess the need and scope for supplementary feeding in meeting critical food needs, food assistance must be considered in light of other possible interventions. Basic choices within the life-cycle of vulnerable groups include:
17. The nexus of causes underlying nutritional problems in any one country or region can be quite different from that in another. For supplementary feeding to be truly effective and food aid to be justified, the food security situation must be analysed. Levels of poverty and food production are important determinants of household food security. Data on household food insecurity are less frequently available and major efforts have been initiated in recent years to fill this gap, in particular through WFP-supported Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) exercises. As a follow-up to the World Food Summit, FAO and WFP are coordinating the development of a worldwide Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS).
18. The Common Country Assessment and United Nations Development Assistance Framework processes and the formulation of the WFP Country Strategy Outlines provide the framework for WFP to engage in a dialogue with national partners and to define and communicate its focus on reaching malnourished children and mothers. Small investments in advocacy (expenses for meetings, workshops, publications, reports and educational posters) can do much to highlight the importance of food assistance in addressing early malnutrition and to identify potential complementary relationships with partners.