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Report: Latin America Should Focus On Child Nutrition

Central American governments are doing a good job of strengthening their social safety nets, but need to sharpen their focus on child nutrition, a new study by WFP reported this month. Here is a breakdown of the study's findings and recommendations.

Central American governments are doing a good job of strengthening their social safety nets, but need to sharpen their focus on child nutrition, a new study by WFP reported this month. Here is a breakdown of the study's findings and recommendations.

PANAMA –  A new study published this month by an international team of experts recommended that nine countries in Central American and the Caribbean make child nutrition a greater focus of the “social safety nets” for poor and marginalized communities.

Entitled the Nutritional Dimension of the Social Safety Nets in Central America and the Dominican Republic, the report brought together a wide array of experts from WFP, local governments, NGOs, the World Bank, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Central American Integration System (CAIS).

The study analysed 110 programmes in eight countries: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica Panama and the Dominican Republic

29 of the programmes focused on mother-child nutrition, 20 on people living with HIV, 14 on conditional cash transfers and 12 simple food based programmes.

Findings

  • The study found that most programmes work in isolation from each other, with different approaches and objectives which hampers coordination and effectiveness.
  • Many of the programmes are missing a nutritional dimension. For example, the fight against poverty is the main objective of conditional cash transfer schemes, but only 13% of them included nutritional goals.
  • Very few of the programmes focus on high-risk demographics such as children under two (one percent), indigenous populations (11 percent) and afro-descendants (5 percent).
  • Only six percent of the analysed programmes have carried out rigorous evaluations of their nutritional impact and made their findings known.
  • The number of staffed trained and prepared on nutrition is very limited. Training options for nutrition are also on short supply.
  • Only one in every five programmes (21 percent) is funded by the governments alone. The rest depend on international cooperation, loans or donations.

Recommendations

  • Social welfare programmes should incorporate a nutritional dimension in order to effectively reduce hunger and malnutrition.
  • Governments should gradually increase public investment in these programmes in order to ensure sustainability. At present, social investment in nutrition in the region is less than 1 percent, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
  • Governments should strengthen coordination between programmes and provide them with assistance in incorporating nutrition.
  • Programmes should do a better job of targeting high-priority groups, such as children under two years, pregnant women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendents and people with HIV