|Reaching Mothers and Children at Critical Times of their Lives (WFP)|
|POLICY ISSUES AND OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES|
41. WFP-assisted interventions are expected to be "sustainable" and not "open-ended". This is usually interpreted to mean that the project objectives will continue to be met after food aid ends and that the external assistance, after some time, is replaced with national or local resources.
42. Almost without exception, WFP assistance to health and nutrition programmes has been planned in an open-ended way, usually for five years the first time, with the possibility, almost always used by the recipient country, for additional multi-year expansions. In this way many projects have continued for long periods.
43. This is justifiable, indeed almost inevitable. While each beneficiary may need WFP help only for a few months, there will be other children and expectant mothers needing help in the following years, especially in the poorest communities. Interventions to tackle early malnutrition are not a "once and for all" undertaking comparable to a resettlement scheme or a construction project. Adequate nutrition for these target groups brings important and enduring benefits for individuals and society as a whole. However, such programmes may involve high day-to-day running costs, which are usually defined as recurrent costs even though investment would be a more apt description. A rigid insistence on early government assumption of these "recurrent costs" would sometimes mean that a valuable investment would have to be prematurely terminated.
44. Regular reassessment of the magnitude of critical food needs (the key indicators were discussed above) must be the basis for determining when supplementary feeding programmes can be either discontinued or so reduced in scope that external assistance is no longer necessary. Moreover, there should be a clear indication of continued government commitment to tackling early malnutrition (demonstrated through its policy, administrative and financial support). This should be the subject of regular reviews and assessments of the country's capacity to gradually assume a higher share of financial and other support for the feeding programme. The key consideration is not how many years the programme has been in operation, but whether it continues to be a good investment, managed as cost-effectively as possible.