A large part of the World Food Programme's (WFP) nutritional work is directed at mothers and young children. Why? Partly because they are usually the most vulnerable from a nutritional point of view and partly because it's here that we can really make a difference.
This is true both in emergency situations and in the more stable, recovery or development situations in which WFP works.
When a woman is pregnant her body has special nutritional needs. After she has given birth, she has a greater need for energy and also for the nutrients that make her breast milk nourishing to her baby. This is critical in situations where women are already malnourished before pregnancy and don’t receive certain vitamins or minerals.
Young children need good nutrition because, without it, their physical and mental development can be compromised - forever.
Every situation is different and WFP studies needs carefully before stepping in. But for mothers and children, our nutrition programmes often make use of special products such as fortified blended foods like Corn Soya Blend, micronutrient powders, or fat-based pastes.
Malnutrition is not only about food. To prevent and treat it effectively, you need a broad approach which also tackles other problems such as poor access to basic health services and inappropriate feeding and caring practices of children.
That’s why, wherever possible WFP supports governments in providing Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) services. This may not be possible in emergencies but in post-emergency situations it usually is.
MCHN initiatives aim to provide a range of basic health services to mothers and children. WFP provides nutritious food, while the government, supported by other partners, provide health and nutrition services such as vaccinations, growth monitoring, pre- and post-natal care, vitamin A and iron supplements and deworming.
To prevent children from becoming malnourished and to give them the opportunity to reach their full developmental potential, health and nutrition support needs to start during pregnancy and continue during the first years of life. MCHN initiatives aim to do this.