WFPs 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 WFPs
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 WFPs 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
- 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
- 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
WFPs 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
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
10. In WFPs 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
WFPs 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