|Reaching Mothers and Children at Critical Times of their Lives (WFP)|
|POLICY ISSUES AND OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES|
36. To be fully effective, food assistance programmes require policy support, operational integration and a minimum level of administrative capacity and complementary inputs. Such support and coordination is normally expected from the government. In some of the poorest countries, however, gaps in national capacity are a reality. The poorest countries have scant resources for social purposes, even when national authorities are convinced of the importance of adequate nutrition. Partnerships with other United Nations agencies, bilateral donors and NGOs and, in some cases, WFPs flexibility to provide a limited amount of non-food support, are important means to make up for shortfalls in LDCs capacity to support effective nutrition programmes.
37. Nevertheless, government commitment is important and there are several ways in which even a poor country can provide support to a supplementary feeding programme. Governments can facilitate the collaboration and partnership of international donors with NGOs and local communities. Government commitment can also manifest itself through coordinating and directing other aid resources in support of the supplementary feeding programme and formulating appropriate food security and nutrition policies.
38. An insufficient capacity in governments to provide complementary inputs might be compensated by government-managed efforts to provide them through partnerships with other United Nations agencies, NGOs and bilateral assistance. In more than three quarters of WFP-assisted supplementary feeding projects, such collaboration occurs in areas such as training of health staff, national immunization programmes and control of micronutrient deficiencies, construction and/or upgrading of health centres, provision of equipment and supplies and nutrition education. UNICEF, the World Bank and WHO are the most frequent United Nations partners in this field. At the level of local operations, NGOs can be highly effective in motivating and leading beneficiaries towards participation. NGOs can also be instrumental in local institution-building.
39. WFPs partnership strategies to assure complementary inputs need to be pursued even more actively if WFP is to devote more of its programmes to the alleviation of early malnutrition. Contributions often turn out to be insufficient, not available on time or generally unreliable. Furthermore, what in official government documents may look like well linked programmes of external assistance may not be perceived that way by the individual aid agencies. The thematic evaluation includes more than one example in which United Nations partner agencies supporting MCH programmes made no reference at all to WFPs work in the very same sector. It is expected that the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) will better facilitate collaboration and programming of complementary non-food inputs and services. WFP will clearly advocate its focus on addressing early malnutrition and communicate this to possible partners. Pilot activities can serve to better explore the scope for partnerships with local authorities and NGOs.
40. Yet, in post-emergency situations and in the poorest areas, WFP is often faced with the choice of helping needy people with food assistance or refraining from doing so until suitable partners can be found. Such a negative scenario can be overcome if WFP has the flexibility to meet a minimum of non-food expenditures that are required to make food assistance programmes effective. WFP should be able to meet some of the most basic non-food costs such as training, education materials, weighing scales, growth charts, etc. Such expenditures would be used to provide for minimum levels of non-food inputs and contribute to capacity-building for local partners. The flexibility to use direct support costs for such purposes would, however, be limited to interventions in which food costs still represent the major share of WFPs investment. Projects involving larger requirements for complementary assistance and activities beyond WFPs expertise would be undertaken only if appropriate partnerships could be established. Such joint programmes, including with bilateral donors, will be actively sought by WFP.