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close this bookReaching Mothers and Children at Critical Times of their Lives (WFP)
View the document(introduction...)
close this folderINTRODUCTION
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View the documentWFP’s mission
View the documentWFP’s experience and lessons learned
close this folderPOLICY ISSUES AND OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES
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View the documentAssessment of critical food needs
View the documentProgramme objectives
View the documentTargeting
View the documentFood strategy
View the documentCosts and benefits
View the documentCommitment and partnership
View the documentSustainability and phasing out
View the documentCritical food needs during crisis and rehabilitation
View the documentRECOMMENDATIONS

WFP’s experience and lessons learned

7. WFP has acquired much experience and expertise in over 30 years of assistance to Mother and Child Health (MCH) and other projects that provide supplementary feeding. Major findings from the recent assessment of WFP’s programmes, including a portfolio review of ongoing supplementary feeding projects, are as follows:

  • The level of WFP assistance is substantial. Food assistance targeted to mothers and children at critical times of their lives accounts for about 20 percent of WFP’s current development portfolio; the 27 ongoing supplementary feeding interventions carry a commitment value of over 300 million dollars. But supplementary food rations for mothers and children under five are also provided in many relief situations: up to 10 percent of WFP emergency resources are allocated to supplementary or therapeutic feeding.
  • Interventions reach large numbers of beneficiaries. Most projects are designed to reach between 20,000 and 100,000 beneficiaries per annum; seven projects target more than 200,000 people each year.
  • Considering the potential long-term benefits, food requirements are modest. The size of a food ration over a year most frequently amounts to about 60 kilograms of cereals, edible oil, pulses and/or blended foods, and at a cost of approximately 25 dollars per person.
  • Projects in Africa are more expensive. Africa, Asia and Latin America receive about equal shares of WFP resources for supplementary feeding; average WFP costs per beneficiary are highest in Africa: 50 percent higher than in Latin America and about three times as high as in Asia.
  • Too little is done in least developed countries (LDCs). LDCs receive only about one third of WFP’s assistance for mothers and children; in tonnage terms, fewer resources are committed for LDCs than for non-priority countries (i.e., neither LDC nor low-income, food-deficit (LIFDC).

8. Research findings show that malnutrition is the outcome of an array of inter-linked risk factors: poverty (unemployment, landlessness); lack of education (illiteracy, poor child spacing); poor health (lack of clean water, poor hygiene, parasitic infections); low social status (tribes, castes, minorities); unfavourable traditions (taboos, low status of women); and/or a harsh environment, all leading to insufficient access to food and/or micronutrients.

9. Not surprisingly, then, a key finding of the thematic evaluation of WFP assistance to address the food needs of women and children at critical times of their lives is that the effectiveness of a food aid intervention is maximized when the achievement of a direct dietary effect is combined with indirect effects such as a better utilization of health and education services; increased household food security and mothers’ caring capacity; and empowerment of women. The full text of the thematic evaluation is contained in document WFP EB.3/97/5/Add.5.

10. In WFP’s experience, food assistance to address early malnutrition will be most effective under conditions of widespread food insecurity. Supplementary feeding will usually be a less preferable option where malnutrition is primarily the result of factors such as inadequate weaning or caring practices and unfavourable social traditions, which can be better addressed through services such as nutrition education, training, growth monitoring and a build-up of referral systems.

11. To be fully effective, WFP assistance through supplementary feeding needs to be integrated with other components. This requires policy, planning and management resources, apart from the actual handling of the food itself. However, the ideal - integrated utilization of a substantial number of complementary activities - is frequently not attainable. There are situations in which WFP is faced with a very practical choice: supplementary feeding with very limited, but viable, complementary activities or no assistance at all.

12. The policy issues and operational challenges which emerged from WFP’s recent review of experiences are discussed in the following section. Action on these issues will be crucial if WFP is to increase the share of food assistance programmed to contribute to a better nutritional status of mothers and children at critical times in their lives.