WFP is at the World Economic Forum East Asia to further our vital relationships with big business and government, and secure the kind of support than can make a real difference in the fight to end child malnutrition. At the heart of our work with the private sector in this area is Project Laser Beam, a multi-stakeholder partnership to help governments give every child the healthy future they deserve. We’ll have some exciting new developments in PLB to announce, and plenty more from one of the most dynamic forums anywhere.
The internet has given individuals greater opportunity to join in important causes like the fight against hunger, according to Nancy Roman, WFP Director of Public Policy, Communication and Private Partnerships. Roman was recently interviewed at the “Social Media Corner” of the World Economic Forum in East Asia.
Unilever CEO Paul Polman explains why PLB is an important new tool to address child under-nutrition.
Pierre van Hedel, Managing Director of the Rabobank Nederland Foundation, explains why the Dutch financial services company has decided to join the PLB family.
Children under two are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition, especially so during the annual lean season between November and February, when food supplies are stretched. In Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) province, children’s diets are generally poor, and they rarely consume protein and fat-rich foods – a major barrier to optimal physical and intellectual development.
Under Project Laser Beam, WFP is developing a specialised peanut-based ready-to-use supplementary food, using locally acceptable products, with support from GAIN and local partners. The product has recently been through acceptability tests in TTS district, which gave generally positive results.
RUSFs are particularly effective in poor communities as they come in user-friendly sachets, do not require preparation and are safely stored without refrigeration.
In NTT, approximately 49,000 children are affected by moderate acute malnutrition, and this new product is designed to allow a preventative approach, with particular targeting during the lean season. This would ensure child health and growth even within a food-insecure context, and create savings for the public health system.
The next step is to develop and test the product further, and then to produce it in Indonesia. Two companies have been identified as possible suppliers.
In parallel to product development, PLB is working with the government to develop a national standard for these products, as well as designing a social marketing campaign to support acceptance of the product.
Nutritious Foods in NTT
Important studies are underway to explore the availability and effectiveness of local foods in the production of specialised ‘smart’ nutritious products for young children under Project Laser Beam – both in Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Elsewhere in Asia, an innovative new food product made in Pakistan is already helping protect the youngest victims of the catastrophic 2010 floods against malnutrition. Made from locally grown chickpeas, Wawa Mum shows that supplying technical knowhow can be the key to finding local solutions to malnutrition.
Wawa Mum is one of a growing number of specialised nutrition products designed to meet the nutritional needs of children in times of crisis. Read more about Wawa Mum here.
PLB Nutritious Food
Monica Marshall - Head of Global Private Partnerships for WFP on why Project Laser Beam is a great entry point for companies committed to make a difference in the lives of young children.
Monica Marshall explains on PLB
WFP met Theo Hadinata during a meeting on the sidelines of WEF in Jakarta. As you can see in this video, he is passionate about finding the best possible opportunities to help small-scale farmers truly thrive. A vibrant small-scale farming sector is good news for the hungry poor.
Bangladesh has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world, with 43 percent of under-fives stunted (chronically malnourished). Particularly in rural areas, children’s diets are woefully short of essential micronutrients. A product known as the Pushti Packet is already available, but WFP is working with GAIN to improve its recipe to make it more effective in the prevention and reduction of child malnutrition.
Research and development is ongoing, and WFP is working with internationally renowned Bangladeshi institute ICDDRB in this process. Pilot batches from local manufacturers must be tested for shelf-life and acceptability amongst mothers and their children. The aim is to produce at least three recipes, which will then be tested for their efficacy and effectiveness for preventing malnutrition.
It is intended that the developed product would be available for use by the Government of Bangladesh, WFP, or any other credible organisation whose objectives are to prevent child malnutrition.
Stories from Bangladesh
In the Timur Tengah Selatan (TTS) district of Indonesia, Unilever, DSM and Kraft have teamed up to improve the existing school meals programme by providing micronutrient powders and nutrition education to augment the rations of ground maize and mung beans, initially in 20 schools.
Training in dietary diversity, cooking practices and health and hygiene practices are also part of the improved ‘package’ to be delivered through PLB.
A separate School Meals programme funded by Unilever is planned to cover 60 more schools (40 in TTS and 20 in Kupang with a targeted mix of food and training), bringing the total number of children assisted to over 17,000.
There are also plans to train local farmers in food processing for use in the schools, and to provide a milling machine. This programme will ensure these children have the nutrition they need to thrive and learn.
Project Laser Beam in Indonesia