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WFP West Africa Nutrition in Focus: Increased Use of Specialized Nutritious Foods

WFP Nutrition in West Africa 1

WFP works in 19 countries in West and Central Africa, a region with some of the world’s highest child undernutrition and mortality rates. In order to ensure that the nutritional support provided to vulnerable populations is the most effective and adapted to their needs, WFP now increasingly uses specialized nutritious foods in its programmes to prevent and treat undernutrition. These fortified products have been designed to meet the specific nutrient needs of undernourished populations or those at risk of becoming undernourished. In this photo, mothers at a WFP distribution site in Burkina Faso receive Supercereal Plus, a fortified blended flour specially designed for young children, to prevent acute malnutrition during the lean season when the children are most at risk.

WFP Nutrition in West Africa 2

Specialized nutritious foods are essential in WFP’s efforts to combat undernutrition. WFP is the lead UN agency for the treatment and prevention of moderate acute malnutrition (also known as “MAM”), a condition that is significantly linked with child mortality. Indeed, a child suffering from this form of malnutrition has a risk of dying three times greater than a well-nourished child. For this reason, it is essential to ensure quick and effective prevention and treatment. Throughout West Africa, WFP often uses the specialized nutritious product called Plumpy’Sup®, in addition to routine medication and caregiver education to treat moderate acute malnutrition in children under 5 and thus reduce child mortality. Below, Plumpy’Sup® is stored in the Bertoua distribution site in Cameroon. One carton contains enough Plumpy’Sup® to treat MAM in several children, depending on the duration of treatment. 

WFP Nutrition in West Africa 3

In partnership with the private sector, WFP has taken advantage of advances in science and technology over the last few years – such as progress in fortification and the production of new specialized nutritious – to ensure that the foods WFP provides are as adapted as possible to nutritional needs and to expand the range of products that can be used in nutrition programmes. In this photo, a woman in Mauritania prepares Supercereal, a fortified blended flour similar to porridge, to improve the micronutrient intake of schoolchildren in the Gorgol region.

WFP Nutrition in West Africa 4

In order to best address undernutrition throughout the region, WFP uses a variety of specialized nutritious foods in West Africa, including fortified blended flours, ready-to-use supplementary foods and micronutrient powders, each uniquely designed to treat or prevent different forms of undernutrition efficiently and effectively. In the photo, a child in Mali receives Plumpy Sup®, used in the treatment of undernutrition, which can be eaten without any further preparation, thus saving time for mothers and limiting risk of hygiene problems.

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This mother and her young child were beneficiaries of a programme to prevent malnutrition in children in Koulikoro, Southern Mali. This programme targeted all children under 2 years of age as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers—the most vulnerable groups—before they became malnourished. The mothers and children were provided with specialized nutritious foods throughout the lean season, when and where the risk of malnutrition was the highest, thus preventing a deterioration in nutritional status and mitigating the associated risks of mortality, illness, and poor child growth, which have clear impacts on the community. 

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In recent years, WFP has greatly increased its focus on providing children, pregnant women and nursing mothers with specialized nutritious foods in order to ensure access to critical nutrients needed for optimal growth and development. Since 2009, WFP has scaled up by a nearly 60-fold increase its use of specialized nutritious foods worldwide, focusing on children under 2 years, referred to as the “window for opportunity” to prevent undernutrition, as well as children under 5 for treatment activities. Here a young child in Cameroon consumes his daily ration of Plumpy’Sup®.

WFP Nutrition in West Africa 7

WFP uses many different activities to ensure that new specialized nutritious foods are used in the most effective way possible in West Africa. In order to ensure their wide-scale use across the region, WFP works closely with partners to build awareness among governments, donors and other key actors on their effectiveness. WFP also contributes to improving available knowledge and data on effective and innovative use of these foods. Along with the private sector, WFP is working to ensure that these products are produced in the most cost-effective way possible. Finally, in order to ensure that the specialized nutritious foods are used correctly by beneficiaries, mothers are routinely trained on nutrition issues. In this photo, a mother reads a nutrition leaflet provided by WFP and partners during a nutrition programme distribution in Cameroon.

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WFP is providing technical support to food producers in the West Africa region to build local capacity to produce specialized nutritious foods. These locally-produced foods can be used in nutrition activities implemented by WFP and partners in the region and can also be made available on local markets to ensure a greater access to appropriate foods for young children. This machine, in a factory being supported by WFP in Central African Republic, is used to fortify foods.

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WFP is working continuously to improve the quality of its programmes to prevent and treat undernutrition in West Africa. In the photo a WFP staff member gathers information from beneficiaries of the nutrition programme in the field on nutritional issues and the use of specialized nutritious foods provided by WFP. 

nutrition photo gallery for west africa