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A unique view of all the ways WFP is assisting millions of people worldwide.

07/22/2014 - 18:44

Yabom Sesay, a woman in her fifties, has traveled over eight miles to the Songo health center from her village in the Port Loko district of northern Sierra Leone. Like many mothers and caretakers of malnourished children, she makes the trip to the clinic every Wednesday to receive food supplies and other services for her seven-month-old grandson Essa.

Essa’s mother, Isatu, died of tooth infection shortly after giving birth, and his father, a tailor, is unable to support him. This has left Sesay, a widowed grandmother, alone to care for Essa and his two siblings. She sells cake to support herself and her grandchildren.

“It has not been easy for me, especially since the children’s father has not been supportive,” she says with tears in her eyes as sweat-drenched Essa sleeps on her lap.

With limited resources available, Sesay used to give Essa powdered milk, but he became severely malnourished and sick at the age of six months. After a month of treatment through the health center’s Outpatient Therapeutic programme, he was enrolled in the center’s Supplementary Feeding Programme, designed to provide continued support for patients with moderate acute malnutrition. Through this programme, children like Essa receive rations of sugar, oil and super cereal plus—an improved corn-soya blend enriched with micronutrients—from WFP to help them recover.

Essa is now one year old and has been discharged from the programme.

“The food that Essa has been eating helped him to gain weight, and he has been healthy ever since,” Sesay proudly recalls. “Without support from WFP, Essa may not have made it.”

The Songo health center is one of 63 supplementary feeding centers in western Sierra Leone supported by WFP thanks to funding from the Government of Japan. Like many of these centers, Songo provides health and nutrition education in addition to vaccination, growth monitoring and supplementary feeding activities.

Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world. Some 46 percent of child deaths in Sierra Leone are attributed to malnutrition, the leading cause of child mortality in the country, and 267 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday.  Malnutrition will be the primary cause of an estimated 74,000 child deaths during the next five years. If current levels of iodine deficiency do not improve over the next five years, 252,000 children could be born with varying degrees of mental retardation.

A total of 49,740 children are benefiting from the supplementary feeding programme across the country. The programme is vital to reducing malnutrition, and enriched foods provide vulnerable children the nutrients they need to thrive.



Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world and the leading cause of child mortality in the country. In partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone, WFP is supporting malnourished children from the poorest households through a supplementary feeding programme, reaching 49,740 children across the country.  


07/21/2014 - 19:57

While malnutrition is treatable, the disease can cause irreversible damage to the physical and mental development of a child. Children affected by malnutrition get sick more frequently and are less productive as adults.

The latest assessment in Burkina Faso, carried out by WFP in 2013, revealed a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 8.2 percent, with levels reaching 14 percent in some regions.

Due to high levels of malnutrition, nearly one in three children suffers from growth retardation. Eight in ten are anemic, as are more than half of pregnant women. Women deficient in iron face a high risk of dying during childbirth and may give birth to a child that will not reach the age of five.

Since 2013, WFP supports government efforts to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition. These interventions are carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health through health centers and NGOs, to the benefit of vulnerable groups in seven of the twelve regions of the country where levels of acute malnutrition and household food insecurity are high.

To fight malnutrition, WFP treats moderate acute malnutrition among children less than five years of age with ready-to-use therapeutic foods, called Plumpy’sup. Wrapped in individual packages, these bars are made with peanut butter and are high in energy, protein and micronutrients. In addition, they can be eaten without cooking or other preparation, which helps to avoid illnesses caused by using dirty water. Pregnant women and nursing mothers receive flour made with grains and soy and rich in vitamins and minerals.

WFP also distributes food to women accompanying children hospitalized due to severe malnutrition and related complications. These rations encourage caretakers to stay with their children at health centers throughout treatment.

During the lean season, WFP also carries out a general food distribution programme targeting all children between six months and two years of age in areas where malnutrition levels are high.

WFP’s nutrition programme in Burkina is primarily financed by the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. Thanks to this support, the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition among children under five years of age has decreased, from 10.9 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent in 2013.

This year, however, WFP was forced to scale back its activities due to a lack of funding. Zones of invention were reduced by 60 percent, excluding some 300,000 people from the programme. Malnutrition prevention activities are also compromised this year due to a lack of financing.

To continue efforts over the next six months, WFP requires USD 10.2 million. Without new contributions, all WFP nutrition interventions could be suspended as the lean season (July to September) begins.

Each year during the lean season—also known as the “hunger season”—the World Food Programme (WFP) carries out a number of activities in Burkina Faso to prevent malnutrition, efforts that have proven effective in the fight against hunger. Due to a lack of funding, however, the programme has been reduced and could be suspended completely this year.

07/16/2014 - 12:17
Disaster Risk Reduction

Better preparedness measures deployed by the international community mean that these figures are on the decrease – but with floods, hurricanes, drought and conflict still claiming close to 10 million lives, more remains to be done.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is joining forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF as part of a disasters and emergencies preparedness programme, in a push to step up emergency preparedness - and limit the damage caused as a result of worldwide crises.

With a £20 million investment from DFID, WFP and UNICEF will scale up their disaster planning in 23 high-risk countries, where 17 million people are at risk from disasters, including 14 million women and children.

"Stretched to breaking point"

“There is a growing danger that while some countries are graduating from aid, others will be left behind,” said UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening when the plan was announced in April.

“The humanitarian system is already stretched to breaking point and we are facing ever more demands on the system, as we deal with the effects of a changing climate, growing population, conflict and extremism."

A team effort

Preparing for emergencies has always been a crucial part of WFP’s work but by partnering with other organisations and integrating efforts, greater protection will be provided to countries which have been significantly affected by natural and man-made disasters in the past - specifically Afghanistan, Chad, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine and the Philippines.

The humanitarian preparedness strengthening programme will focus on a number of core strategies including the pre-positioning of relief items and support equipment, the provision of expert training, simulation drills and monitoring of countries susceptible to disaster. WFP will also invest in innovative technology that can monitor and track disasters and provide more detailed risk analysis in disaster-prone regions.

It is widely recognised that being prepared for a disaster increases the effectiveness of humanitarian response and saves lives. For example, Bangladesh reduced casualties from 2 very comparable cyclones from 500,000 in 1972 to 3,400 in 2008.

 It also makes economic sense –every $1 invested in reducing the risk of disasters is saved several times in terms of emergency response and reconstruction.

 It may not be possible to prevent a disaster altogether, but by working with communities and humanitarian agencies to prepare, WFP can greatly reduce the negative effects of a disaster, saving lives and livelihoods.

Read more about how WFP is preparing for disasters.

DFID statement on disaster preparedness.


In 2013, a staggering number of people struggled to cope with the impact of conflict and natural disaster. The Syria conflict left 9.3 million people in need of urgent assistance, while Typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 6,000 people and destroyed over a million homes.

07/16/2014 - 09:52
Focus on Women, Responding to Emergencies

BATOURI  -- Fatimatou and her children arrived in Cameroon in February. They are living in a small refugee camp at Yokadouma, just inside Cameroon’s eastern border.  Her husband died a few years ago but several members of her extended family are also in Yokadouma and assist her. She was happy to answer questions about her life.

What are the biggest changes in your life?

Having no money and very little to do. Back in our village in C.A.R., I had a stall at the local market. I used to sell tomatoes, onions, oil…things like that. So I was always busy.  And even though I wasn’t rich we were OK. I’d like to start up a small business like that here. It’s going to be hard because I spent all my money just getting here. But maybe I can find a way.

What else has changed?

Well my two girls aren’t going to school. It’s too far away for them to go on foot. We’d need someone to take them on a motorbike. And they couldn’t go alone. It’s a shame. School is a good thing, especially for girls. Another difference is how we sleep. Back home, there were six of us sleeping in the bedroom – me  and the children. Here there are 21 people in the same room.

Is it all bad?

No. At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that. And I have friends and family here to help me.

When did you come to Cameroon?

About five months ago. We left with a lot of other people from our village when the trouble started. There was a lot of tension and people were getting attacked. It was too dangerous to stay. To go faster, we paid for a car to come part of the way – that was very expensive.

What did you bring with you?

I managed to bring another dress, so I can change my clothes. Same for the children. We didn’t bring anything else. We had to leave everything behind.

Is there something you were especially sorry to leave? 

Yes, my set of new white dinner plates. I had enough for 20 people. I had just bought them and they were so beautiful. Who knows what’s happened to them now.

Are you going to return to CAR? 

What for? What am I going to do there with all the fighting that’s happening? If the fighting stops and things settle down…maybe, I don’t know. It depends on what the rest of my family does. They will decide. I just want to be where they are.

What would you say to anyone reading about you?

We all used to live together in CAR, Muslims and Christians. There was no problem.  Now we’re all fighting each other. It's stupid. Now people like us have had to leave everything behind. And come here, where we have to start all over again. War is bad. People should be able to live together.

Fatimatou Djara is one of over 100,000 people who have arrived in Cameroon this year, fleeing the vicious bloodletting in the Central African Republic.  She and her three children receive food from WFP every month. In this interview, she explains some of the changes that life as a refugee brings.

07/10/2014 - 16:28

PERAMAGROON, Iraq – Umm Ibrahim gathers with her children and grandchildren inside a public school building in Peramagroon, where they are allowed to stay during the school’s summer break with permission from the Kurdistan region authorities. The family came here to escape bombing in their hometown of Samaraa.

Umm Ibrahim is among some 90,000 people who have been assisted by WFP after fleeing the violence that first hit Mosul and spread to surrounding cities and governorates in mid-June. The food she has received will keep her and her family fed for two weeks.

“I am very sad at our present circumstances. What are we supposed to do here? I want to go back to my hometown,” said Umm Ibrahim.  Nearby, her sons and grandchildren are huddled together - three generations of an Iraqi family displaced by violence in their home city.

One of Umm Ibrahim’s sons, Ismail, outlines the circumstances of their displacement. He explains that they left the garage where they took shelter in Samaraa and headed to Tikrit city in Salaheldin governorate before fleeing to the mountainous village of Peramagroon.  His daughter, eight-year-old Sarah, expresses her nostalgia for her hometown. 

“It is so hot; we need clean water to drink,“ said Sarah. “I want to return to Samaraa to play with my friends.”  Hundreds of families are displaced in Peramagroon following violence in Samaraa. Most of them currently have no source of income and depend entirely on the food delivered by WFP.

The organization plans to reach over 200,000 people displaced by Iraq’s recent conflict in coming weeks. Most of WFP’s food distributions so far have taken place in the Kurdistan region as well as in shelters and camps on the outskirts of Mosul. “The situation is very critical”, Ismail said.

When violence broke out in Samaraa city in Iraq’s Salaheldin governorate, Umm Ibrahim, an Iraqi woman in her eighties, took shelter with nine other family members inside a relative’s garage. Two nights later, they fled to Peramagroon district in the nearby Suleymaniyah governorate, where they now live inside a public school with twelve other displaced families.

07/09/2014 - 02:52
School Meals

This anticipated meeting, scheduled more than a month ago, allowed the international officer to inform the First Lady of the Regional Bureau’s actions that aim to strengthen local programmes and projects that WFP has implemented in Honduras. The annual contribution of the agency in the country is that of 15 million dollars in programs and projects, destined assist approximately 400,000 of Honduras’s most impoverished people.

The Civil Servants discussed a number of important topics, including agroforestry projects and resiliency to climate change programmes, these projects assist families that are living with food insecurity,  such programmes act as a catalyst for development. Furthermore, a particular project that the Government of Honduras has highlighted the importance of is the School Feeding Programme, this programme does not only ensure that children are well nourished in school, but it strengthens the local economy. Products for the school meals are purchased from smallholder farmers.

To date, through WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P), 28 thousand metric tons of maize and beans have been purchased from smallholders for the Honduran Government’s School Feeding Programme.

The First Lady expressed her commitment to projects supporting the children of Honduras and her desire to strengthen these programmes and projects aimed at early childhood (first 1,000 days of life) development that WFP has been implementing in the country for several years, especially in the “dry corridor” region of Honduras.

Last week Honduran First Lady, Ana de Hernández, met with The World Food Programme (WFP)  Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto,  and WFP Representative to Honduras, Pasqualina Di Sirio. The aim of the meeting was to strengthen the long-standing relationship that WFP has had with the Government of Honduras for over 40 years.

07/04/2014 - 11:28
Responding to Emergencies

Nyumanzi -Three meals a day were a welcome relief to Adau Akuonan and her daughter Nyandeng after a long journey to safety -- fleeing fighting in South Sudan and seeking refuge in Uganda’s Adjumani district. 
The family left their home in Bor in Jonglei state, South Sudan during fighting that began in Juba in mid- December and spread to three states in the north of the country. Initially they moved around the state in search of a safe location, not planning on leaving their homeland, but when their home was set on fire, they began the long journey southward on foot. They carried few personal belongings with them.

Looking For Abandoned Buildings

Nyandeng Deng is one of Adau’s eight children and helps her mother with the younger kids as well as preparing the food they are provided with by WFP. “There was shooting everywhere,” says Nyandeng, “and there was a big gun stationed near our house. It was too dangerous to stay.”
Even though a relative sent them money to help during their journey, it was tough.  The family often walked entire days. As the sun set, they looked for abandoned buildings in which to sleep. They often begged for food and a younger children fell ill with a cough.  The family arrived in Uganda after ten days on the road.
“At Dzaipi (transit centre), we ate regular meals for the first time,” says Adau.

“We ate three meals a day, porridge in the morning, then beans and maize for lunch and supper,” Nyandeng explains.
The family has since been resettled by the government and UNHCR on land provided by the local community. They have built two huts covered with UN tarpaulin sheets, not far away from a source of water, also provided by humanitarian agencies.

Food Is The Priority

Adau says the most important things they have received since arriving in Uganda are the materials for erecting shelters, blankets, kitchen utensils, mosquito nets and plastic mats.
“But the food is number one, followed by water.” Nyandeng says emphatically.
“We like to eat meat and yam as well, and they are sold in the market,” adds Nyandeng “but our father does not have money to buy such. He comes home with them only once in a while.”

WFP is currently supporting more than 113,000 refugees who arrived from South Sudan since mid-December. WFP provides high energy biscuits at the border points, cooked meals at transit centres and then monthly food baskets. Each basket comprises of cereals, pulses, vegetable cooking oil, iodised salt and cereal fortified with vitamins and minerals. The government allocates the refugees pieces of land where they are allowed to cultivate food and build shelters. WFP food and nutrition assistance reduces as the refugees begin to provide for themselves on the allocated land.


Tens of thousands of refugees from South Sudan are arriving in transit camps and settlements in Uganda. Although they have found safety, food is their number one priority.

07/01/2014 - 12:44
ED - E.Cousin, Responding to Emergencies

GENEVA - Addressing government representatives at a meeting in Geneva, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres made an urgent joint plea for US$186 million to allow WFP to restore full rations and prevent further reductions elsewhere through December 2014. For its part, UNHCR needs US $39 million for supplementary nutrition it provides to malnourished and vulnerable refugees in Africa.  

“Many refugees in Africa depend on WFP food to stay alive and are now suffering because of a shortage of funding,” Cousin said. “So we are appealing to donor governments to help all refugees – half of whom are children – have enough food to be healthy and to build their own futures.”

Across Africa, 2.4 million refugees in some 200 sites in 22 countries depend on regular food aid from the World Food Programme. Currently, a third of those refugees have seen reductions in their rations, with refugees in Chad facing cuts as high as 60 per cent.

As soon as displaced people receive their rations they go back to their tent helped by friends or family members to carry the heavy load. Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

Too many crises 

Supplies have been cut by at least 50 per cent for nearly 450,000 refugees in remote camps and other sites in the Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan. Another 338,000 refugees in Liberia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ghana, Mauritania and Uganda have seen their rations reduced by between five and 43 per cent.

In addition, a series of unexpected, temporary ration reductions has affected camps in several countries since early 2013 and into 2014, including in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. Some cuts were also due to insecurity that affected deliveries.

“The number of crises around the world is far outpacing the level of funding for humanitarian operations, and vulnerable refugees in critical operations are falling through the cracks,” said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “It is unacceptable in today’s world of plenty for refugees to face chronic hunger or that their children drop out of school to help families survive,” he said, calling for a rethink on funding for displacement situations worldwide.   

A devastating impact

A joint UNHCR-WFP report issued in conjunction with today’s Geneva meeting says that refugees are among the world's most vulnerable people and warns that reductions in their minimum rations can have a devastating impact on already weakened populations.

Many refugees arrive in countries of exile already in urgent need of emergency nutritional care. Lacking any means to support themselves in many host countries, they remain totally dependent on international assistance – sometimes for years – until they can return home or find other solutions. Generally, WFP tries to provide 2,100 kilocalories per refugee per day.

Guterres warned that while a sustained 60 per cent reduction in rations would be catastrophic for refugees, even small cuts can spell disaster for already undernourished people. The impact, especially on children, can be immediate and often irreversible. Undernutrition during a child’s first 1,000 days from conception can have lifelong consequences, compromising both physical growth and mental development. Numerous studies have shown that this “stunting” leaves affected children at a severe social and economic disadvantage for the rest of their lives.

Photos: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

Unacceptable levels of malnutrition

Even before the most recent ration cuts, refugees in many of the camps surveyed were already experiencing unacceptable levels of malnutrition, despite some progress over the past five years in improving nutrition standards. For example, a programme to prevent and treat micro-nutrient deficiencies has helped to slow or even reverse rising malnutrition rates and associated problems in some areas. But the current shortfall now threatens to negate even those hard-won gains.

Nutritional surveys conducted between 2011 and 2013 showed that stunting and anaemia among children was already at critical levels in the majority of the refugee sites. Only one of 92 surveyed camps, for example, met the agencies' goal of fewer than 20 per cent of refugee children suffering from anaemia. And fewer than 15 per cent of camps surveyed met the target of less than 20 per cent stunting among children. The surveys also showed that acute malnutrition levels among children under five years of age remain unacceptably high in more than 60 per cent of the sites.

Refugees hit by the food shortages are struggling to cope, posing a host of additional problems as they resort to what the report calls "negative coping strategies." These include an increase in school dropouts as refugee children seek work to help provide food for their families; exploitation and abuse of women refugees who venture out of camps in search of work; "survival sex" by women and girls trying to raise money to buy food; early marriage of young girls; increased stress and domestic violence within families; and increasing theft and other activities that also raise tensions both within camps and with surrounding communities.

The end result, the report says, is a "vicious cycle of poverty, food insecurity, deterioration of nutritional status, increased risk of disease, and risky coping strategies. Therefore, improving livelihood opportunities and food security is paramount to break this vicious cycle, and ensuring that previous investments and advances in nutrition and food security are preserved."

In addition to urging donor governments to fully fund the refugee food pipeline, UNHCR and WFP are also encouraging African governments to provide refugees with agricultural plots, grazing land, working rights and access to local markets to promote greater self-sufficiency among refugees. Given the unpredictability of funding, the agencies are also refining their methods of prioritising those affected by possible cuts to ensure that the most vulnerable are identified and receive the help they need.

The heads of the United Nations refugee agency and World Food Programme warned today that funding difficulties, compounded by security and logistical problems in some countries, have forced cuts in food rations for nearly 800,000 refugees in Africa, threatening to worsen already unacceptable levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia, particularly in children.

06/24/2014 - 12:55
Responding to Emergencies

Q: What did you see during your visit to refuges sites in Eastern Cameroon?

A: We saw a lot of very thin, malnourished children; while visiting several households, we met children so sick they were unable to go with their mothers to register at the health center. At the site where mothers and children were being checked in to register for the blanket supplementary feeding programme, one in four children was identified as either moderately malnourished or severely malnourished.  The situation was pretty alarming.

Q: How do you explain the high numbers of malnourished children?

A: Considering how they have arrived here and the stories we have been hearing, their critical nutrition state isn’t surprising. They spent a lot of time in the bush—sometimes two or three months—and during that time they didn’t have nearly enough food to eat or clean water to drink. Many are sick with diseases such as malaria. Unaccompanied children often had it worst, unable to buy food or eat adequately. A woman told us that she comes from a community not too far from Bangui, so you can imagine the distances families have traveled on foot.

Q: How is WPF responding to this emergency?

A: From the nutrition perspective, we are responding in two ways in order to save the lives of the young children. We are helping to identify those who are malnourished and provide them with treatment. All children under five identified as moderately malnourished will be given highly nutritious food that can be eaten without needing to cook it.  Children receive this food every two weeks until they achieve a desired weight. To prevent malnutrition, we are providing highly nutritious foods to all children under five as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers. Those who are undernourished among these women receive treatment as well. We are also giving food to households, including rice, pulses and oil. Because they are arriving here with no means of livelihood, they cannot work, they cannot grow their own food; they arrive here with basically nothing. We are providing what we call general food distributions to families so that they have enough food to eat on a daily basis.

Q: What challenges are you facing?

A: We face a number of challenges. First, there are a lot of malnourished children, almost 25 percent of all the children under five. In Cameroon, Government and partners are not used to dealing with such levels of under nutrition, since normally the communities around here don’t have high levels of acute malnutrition. Partners were also not prepared for this influx. Our first challenge was having enough partners on the ground. In terms of capacity, we also had to make sure that partners were equipped to effectively deliver the necessary nutrition services. Another challenge is access to those in need, especially people living outside the sites. And of course funding is a challenge; we need enough resources to be able to reach all the refugees that require support.

In Cameroon up to 1 out of 3 refugee children from Central African Republic suffer from malnutrition, a recent United Nations assessment found. Kinday Samba, WFP senior nutritionist, was part of the assessment mission. We asked her about what she saw.

06/22/2014 - 09:24
Food For Assets

Shabboha, NORTH KORDOFAN- Groups of people dig, shovel and remove dirt away from the basin of a haffir in Shabboha, some crouched close to the ground and others mounted on donkeys’ backs.

Mohammed Al-Amin, a 42 year old father of four, is among those digging the soil. Despite wearing a prosthetic leg, he is hard at work.

“With the food I get from my work I can feed my family and provide them with other basic needs,” said Mohamed.  “My participation in this project will contribute to solving the issue of water scarcity in the area.  I do not know how else I could have managed to support my family.”

Through its food-for-work programme, WFP provides food to local communities as seasonal support in order to participate in the rehabilitation work.  The participants receive cash vouchers for 10 work days. Technically, excavation of one cubic meter and removal of the dirt away from the haffir basin takes 5 work days.  With the vouchers they receive, beneficiaries can choose to buy from 12 different food items, including wheat, lentils and meat, according to their preferences from a local shop located near the worksite.

Water is an expensive and scarce commodity in the region and many villagers are forced to cross long distances to collect it.  The closest water sources can often be as far as 38 and 42 kms away.

The food Mohammed gets will help him feed his family during the lean season when people have to migrate to other places in search of work.

“The haffir project is vital to the area as it contributes to the settlement of the population, which in turn leads to the establishment of schools and health centers and other essential institutions.  Overall, it contributes to the development of these areas,” said Ibn Omar, manager of rural development in the West Bara locality.

Shabboha haffir was originally constructed in 1994 with a capacity of 30,000 cubic meters.  Now with this rehabilitation the new capacity will be 35,000 cubic meters which is sufficient to provide water to the nearby communities for 6 months following the rainy season.


At the site of a haffir, or water reservoir, in Shabboha, a small village near El Obeid, North Kordofan’s capital, residents of eight villages are participating in a Food-For-Work project implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP). The project, supported by the government of Japan, is run in partnership with Al-Sugya, a local NGO helping communities that have low access to potable water. When fully rehabilitated, the haffir will provide water to a population of 3,280 people.