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Afghanistan: Special Supplementary Food Improves The Health Of Mothers And Children

WFP provides supplementary food to acutely malnourished pregnant and breastfeeding women and specialized nutritional products to young children with moderate acute malnutrition. In an informal settlement in Kabul, every day many of these mothers and their young children visit a WFP-supported mobile clinic for treatment and to receive special nutritious food.

KABUL - Twenty-eight-year-old Latifa is a mother of six who lives with her family in an informal settlement southeast of Kabul.  She has been undernourished for years. However, for the past eight months, in partnership with the French NGO, Action Contre la Faim, WFP has been providing her and her youngest daughters with nutritious food.  

“I was very weak and could not feed my little daughter. I was losing weight and getting thin," shares Latifa. "We are poor and we have no money to go to a doctor or to buy good food. For eight months now, I have been coming twice a month here and receiving food from WFP. It is very helpful I am getting better and will continue visiting this center until I fully recover.”

Diba, licking her finger with food around her mouth

Three-year-old Diba, licking the tasty special nutritious food, provided by WFP.
Photo: WFP/Wahidullah Amani

Latifa was six months pregnant when she was introduced to WFP's targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme which provided her with fortified wheat flour and vegetable oil, pulses, iodised salt and multiple micronutrient tablets. Her youngest daughter Sonia is now three months old and is in good health. “Thank God! I came here and was nursed back to health through this programme. Otherwise my baby could have suffered from the same problem,” Latifa says.

Evidence has shown that chronic undernutrition during the first 1,000 days of life leads to irreversible damage later in life. Malnourished children are more likely to get sick, do poorly in school and earn less as adults. Mothers who were malnourished as girls are more likely to give birth to children who do not survive to age five, and malnourished mothers are more likely to die in childbirth.

Latifa's three-year-old daughter, Diba, is also acutely malnourished, and is receiving WFP specialized food. Like many other malnourished children in the settlement, Diba is given a packet of Plumpy' sup -- a ready-to-eat peanut paste fortified with essential vitamins and micronutrients-- each day which she will continue receive until she's fully recovered.

Another mother in the settlement, 22-year-old Najiba, says of her two undernourished children, "Both of my sons are very weak, they cannot sit or stand. I have been bringing them here for six months and I can see that they are getting better. At the beginning, none of them could even hold up their heads, now they can and they are gaining weight".

Najiba holding her crying son Najiba and her son.
Photo: WFP/Wahidullah Amani

In these types of clinics, apart from receiving food, the women also learn about the nutritious local diet options for themselves and their family. Moreover, they are given information on routine vaccinations, proper hygiene and water sanitation practices.

“I have learned here how to keep myself and my newborn kids clean,” says Latifa. “The doctors also told us that up to six months newborns should only be given mothers milk,” she adds.