What is Wawa Mum and how did it come about?
Wawa Mum is a special food for infants and young children. I originally started working on this product while I was in India, where we arranged with a local company to produce a sample batch. Some of that was used during the 2008 Bihar floods in India, while the rest was dispatched to Myanmar following Cyclone Nargis.
How did Wawa Mum come to Pakistan?
I myself moved to Pakistan in early 2009 and took the concept with me. I contacted a number of companies about producing it and to-date, we have three which produce around 200 metric tons per month. That's still only about a fifth of the amount that we need.
What does that mean in human terms? How many children would a single ton feed in a day?
The individual rations are quite small, about 50 g per child per day. So one ton will feed around 20,000 children.
Tell us how Wawa Mum got its name.
When we started producing it in Pakistan, the first people it was provided to were IDPs displaced by the conflict in the northwestern part of the country along the border with Afghanistan. In the local Pashtun language, "Wawa Mum" means "good food, mom!" which is what the kids would say while they ate it.
Is that the kind of situation Wawa Mum was intended for?
Yes. Wawa Mum has a number advantages in an IDP or refugee scenario over some of our other food products. First of all, it doesn’t require any cooking. It can be eaten right out of the package, which means it’s much easier to consume for beneficiaries who on the move and can't cook. The second big advantage is that it doesn’t need to be mixed with water, so there's no risk of contamination. Finally, it’s made from chickpeas, which have a flavour that people in Southern Asia are familiar with and like.
Apart from the benefits to WFP and beneficiaries, what other advantages does Wawa Mum have?
Wawa Mum is produced locally. When we can, we always prefer to stimulate the local economy rather than rely on imports. Right now we’re working with three companies and aim to bring on too more over the next fe months. In addition, there's potential to start selling the product to other actors on the ground, like the government nutrition programme.
What are our long-term ambitions for Wawa Mum? Is there any scope for it outside of Pakistan?
In the short-term, we need to step up production. Our plan is to raise production to 500 metric tons per month by July, and to 1,000 metric tons by the end of the year. As for its future outside of Pakistan, orders have already been placed in Afghanistan, with more to come from Tajikistan. There's also a project underway to begin producing Wawa Mum in Ethiopia, which is just one of many African countries where people are used to eating chickpeas.