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07/31/2014 - 23:48
Focus on Women

1. The week begins with a series of talks done by different people from different institutions and companies.

Companies gather and share their experiences on the topic of “mothers and breastfeeding”. The goal of the talks is to work as an incentive for companies, to create safe spaces where mothers can breastfeed their children and places in the workplace where mothers can breast pump and store their milk. (Copyright: UNICEF Panama)

2. Then the Annual Family Fair called: La Gran Tetada (The Breastfeeding Fest) takes place

In this family fair, mothers from all over Panama bring their babies to Parque Omar to learn and share experiences of breastfeeding.  Mothers’ breastfeed their children together, while listening to educational talks on how to properly breastfeed children, effective techniques of breastfeeding, and the importance of breastfeeding. (Copyright: Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Lactancia Materna)

3. Mass Media Promotes Breastfeeding in TV and Radio

All media networks are connected this week to broadcast information about breastfeeding. Most interview people in the government, health institutions, or medical facilities. The objective is to reach as many persons possible, all over the country and in the most remote areas. (Copyright: Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Lactancia Materna)

4. Baby Care-packages are delivered!

Panama provides baby care-packages, which include baby shampoo, baby wipes, baby powder, baby everything! They deliver these in different facilities while providing mothers with educational pamphlets and talks about proper breastfeeding. (Copyright: UNICEF Panama)

5. Finally the Closing Ceremony Takes Place in a Hospital that Has a Breast Milk Bank

A Breast Milk Bank is a center where human milk, donated by selected mothers, is received, stored, and distributed to children that do not count with milk from their own mother. Because Panama only has a limited amount of these facilities. The goal of hosting the closing ceremony in the hospital is to promote Breast Milk Banks.  (Copyright: UNICEF Panama)

From the 1st to the 7th of August, Breastfeeding Week is all about promoting breastfeeding to teens, mothers, institutions, private sector, and organizations. Breastfeeding can change the course of a child’s life!
In Latin America, WFP in Panama is a big fan of breastfeeding because of its important effects on nutrition. Therefore they support the National Commission for Breastfeeding to raise as much awareness during this week.

Here is how Panama raises awareness on Breastfeeding:


07/23/2014 - 17:28

Security clearances approved. Security briefing completed. Radio check done. Bags – along with water, gas and office supplies for the field offices – in the cars ready to go.

The 800 km-plus trip, to field offices and projects in Bossangoa, Paoua and Bouar in the northwest of the Central African Republic, promises to be interesting – my first chance to get out of Bangui and see what things look like on the ground. On our way out of Bangui, the road is paved, a good road by C.A.R. standards, with holes every few metres. It runs straight through a breathtaking landscape: green hills, huge trees and very little traffic. 

This may be why people lay cassava pieces to dry directly on the roadside. I have doubts about the cleanliness of the practice, and I cannot help but think about the cassava I ate the other day.

A few kilometres outside Bangui, we hit the first roadblock – a symptom of the ongoing violence that affects so many people in this country. We are greeted by young men, with no weapons to be seen. Everything goes smoothly – they hardly stop the car – but I doubt things will be as easy for the taxi they are busy searching, an old car overflowing with people and luggage.

A second roadblock. Then a third, and a fourth, in less than 40 km. These are the only unusual features of the otherwise quite normal scenery. In the car, we listen to music. I try to give Bonaventure, the driver, a taste of songs from countries outside C.A.R. I watch as we pass little brick houses, people walking along the road, kids running around, a few motorcycles each carrying at least three passengers, plus their bags.

Then comes the fifth roadblock. But this one is different. Half a dozen militias, from the group anti-Balaka, stand with their homemade guns that look like toys, built of carved wood and metal tubes. Weapons that look fake but appear to be able to shoot. One of the men wears a knitted hat that says "Chelsea FC," covered by a helmet twice the size of his head, and jujus cover his arms. His companion has knotted a woollen scarf over his head in a most peculiar way; it is way over 30°C out there.

"Be careful while driving" they say, "someone has been shot over there, so there is fighting a few kilometres away." It could be true. He may also have made it up on the spot. 

And then, a few kilometres away, it becomes clear that he was right. A long line of 50 or more trucks is blocking the road. The bi-weekly convoy heading to the Cameroonian border – Bangui's only way of getting supplies – has come to a halt. From where we are, it is impossible for us to know what is going on further down the road, but security colleagues back in Bangui ask us to turn around and return to the capital immediately. 

So here we are, less than three hours after we left, back at the office. One of my shortest road trips ever. I have not unpacked yet. The colleagues in the field offices will have to wait a little longer for the biscuits and newspapers we were hoping to bring them.

"No plans are certain here until you have actually completed them," says one colleague. And I have to admit, he is absolutely right.

July 2014, Central African Republic - While violence and displacement of people remain the daily routine, our colleague in Bangui, Donaig Le Du, shares her impressions from the field. Read her diaries and try to get a sense of what it's like to live and work in C.A.R. during these dramatic days. Here's the second episode of a series describing her adventurous journey to the city of  Bossangoa.

07/23/2014 - 17:15

JUBA - A four-barge convoy carrying 1,200 metric tons of cereals from WFP, is headed for the towns of Malakal and Melut in Upper Nile State. 

In Malakal the food will be distributed to people displaced by the conflict which erupted in South Sudan in December. Some of them are sheltering in areas protected by the United Nations. And in Melut, the food assistance will be given to refugees from Sudan who sought refuge in Maban County. 

Many areas of South Sudan have been cut off from road access because of fighting and the rainy season. Barge transport enables WFP to move food in bulk, and is less costly than air transport.

Barges carrying urgently needed food to help people cut off by floods and fighting in remote areas of South Sudan are being moved into a convoy on the River Nile at Juba. 

07/22/2014 - 18:44

Yabom Sesay, a woman in her fifties, has traveled over eight miles to the Songo health center from her village in the Port Loko district of northern Sierra Leone. Like many mothers and caretakers of malnourished children, she makes the trip to the clinic every Wednesday to receive food supplies and other services for her seven-month-old grandson Essa.

Essa’s mother, Isatu, died of tooth infection shortly after giving birth, and his father, a tailor, is unable to support him. This has left Sesay, a widowed grandmother, alone to care for Essa and his two siblings. She sells cake to support herself and her grandchildren.

“It has not been easy for me, especially since the children’s father has not been supportive,” she says with tears in her eyes as sweat-drenched Essa sleeps on her lap.

With limited resources available, Sesay used to give Essa powdered milk, but he became severely malnourished and sick at the age of six months. After a month of treatment through the health center’s Outpatient Therapeutic programme, he was enrolled in the center’s Supplementary Feeding Programme, designed to provide continued support for patients with moderate acute malnutrition. Through this programme, children like Essa receive rations of sugar, oil and super cereal plus—an improved corn-soya blend enriched with micronutrients—from WFP to help them recover.

Essa is now one year old and has been discharged from the programme.

“The food that Essa has been eating helped him to gain weight, and he has been healthy ever since,” Sesay proudly recalls. “Without support from WFP, Essa may not have made it.”

The Songo health center is one of 63 supplementary feeding centers in western Sierra Leone supported by WFP thanks to funding from the Government of Japan. Like many of these centers, Songo provides health and nutrition education in addition to vaccination, growth monitoring and supplementary feeding activities.

Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world. Some 46 percent of child deaths in Sierra Leone are attributed to malnutrition, the leading cause of child mortality in the country, and 267 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday.  Malnutrition will be the primary cause of an estimated 74,000 child deaths during the next five years. If current levels of iodine deficiency do not improve over the next five years, 252,000 children could be born with varying degrees of mental retardation.

A total of 49,740 children are benefiting from the supplementary feeding programme across the country. The programme is vital to reducing malnutrition, and enriched foods provide vulnerable children the nutrients they need to thrive.



Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world and the leading cause of child mortality in the country. In partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone, WFP is supporting malnourished children from the poorest households through a supplementary feeding programme, reaching 49,740 children across the country.  


07/21/2014 - 19:57

While malnutrition is treatable, the disease can cause irreversible damage to the physical and mental development of a child. Children affected by malnutrition get sick more frequently and are less productive as adults.

The latest assessment in Burkina Faso, carried out by WFP in 2013, revealed a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 8.2 percent, with levels reaching 14 percent in some regions.

Due to high levels of malnutrition, nearly one in three children suffers from growth retardation. Eight in ten are anemic, as are more than half of pregnant women. Women deficient in iron face a high risk of dying during childbirth and may give birth to a child that will not reach the age of five.

Since 2013, WFP supports government efforts to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition. These interventions are carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health through health centers and NGOs, to the benefit of vulnerable groups in seven of the twelve regions of the country where levels of acute malnutrition and household food insecurity are high.

To fight malnutrition, WFP treats moderate acute malnutrition among children less than five years of age with ready-to-use therapeutic foods, called Plumpy’sup. Wrapped in individual packages, these bars are made with peanut butter and are high in energy, protein and micronutrients. In addition, they can be eaten without cooking or other preparation, which helps to avoid illnesses caused by using dirty water. Pregnant women and nursing mothers receive flour made with grains and soy and rich in vitamins and minerals.

WFP also distributes food to women accompanying children hospitalized due to severe malnutrition and related complications. These rations encourage caretakers to stay with their children at health centers throughout treatment.

During the lean season, WFP also carries out a general food distribution programme targeting all children between six months and two years of age in areas where malnutrition levels are high.

WFP’s nutrition programme in Burkina is primarily financed by the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. Thanks to this support, the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition among children under five years of age has decreased, from 10.9 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent in 2013.

This year, however, WFP was forced to scale back its activities due to a lack of funding. Zones of invention were reduced by 60 percent, excluding some 300,000 people from the programme. Malnutrition prevention activities are also compromised this year due to a lack of financing.

To continue efforts over the next six months, WFP requires USD 10.2 million. Without new contributions, all WFP nutrition interventions could be suspended as the lean season (July to September) begins.

Each year during the lean season—also known as the “hunger season”—the World Food Programme (WFP) carries out a number of activities in Burkina Faso to prevent malnutrition, efforts that have proven effective in the fight against hunger. Due to a lack of funding, however, the programme has been reduced and could be suspended completely this year.

07/18/2014 - 12:14

KOCH – Under the harsh sun on the edge of a swamp, thousands of people wait desperately for their food rations.  

An old woman lies in the thick mud chewing on wild grass, while another rubs her stomach in hunger, worried she will throw up if she finally eats. Dozens upon dozens of women stand quietly with wicker baskets on their heads, their babies sleeping and crying inside.  

While many wait patiently with their ration cards in hand, some are simply too ill to move. One young woman lies in a patch of shade, crying.

Cut off by conflict and seasonal rains that have made roads virtually impassable, it is the first time aid has reached the desperate people of Koch County since fighting broke out in December. 

Urgent Need

Even before the war, Koch was considered one of the most food-insecure areas of the country. Now, it is also hosting thousands of people displaced by fighting and facing shocking levels of hunger.

Many tukul homes have been burned in the fighting, and people have taken to living in the bush and surviving on wild grasses and vegetables. Women report being raped and assaulted as they walk through dangerous areas in search of food. The town market has little for sale, and graffiti covers the wall of a small, abandoned medical clinic. 

In response to these appalling circumstances, a team of emergency workers and supplies had flown into Koch town a few days earlier to provide urgent assistance. Planes air-dropped bags of cereals and pulses, and helicopters delivered cans of vegetable oil and highly nutritious blended foods for small children. Humanitarians from WFP, UNICEF and the NGO World Relief hit the ground and began assessing and registering people, setting up a food distribution site and treating children who suffer from malnutrition.

Standing in line is Peter Mamouk, a visibly emaciated elderly man with only one eye who is among the 21,000 people who have registered for food. When the fighting began, the aged farmer was separated from his wife and nine children, who are now in a camp for internally displaced people in Bentiu, a city which has seen some of the biggest battles in South Sudan. Peter fled for his life, leaving his home and possessions behind, and has been unable to grow any crops.

“Because of this war, we have no food,” he says. “This year things have become very difficult.”

Expanding Emergency Response

But Koch is not alone in needing this urgent help. With ongoing concerns about the looming hunger catastrophe across South Sudan, WFP and its partners are expanding their rapid response teams. There are currently 50 staff operating in five other locations, focusing on the conflict-affected states of Jonglei, Unity and the Upper Nile. So far, emergency teams have reached 28 remote areas, and new ones are being assembled to reach still more.

Funding this enormous, complex emergency response remains a major challenge, says WFP Country Director Joyce Luma. 

“We urgently need funds and partners to be able to expand coverage and establish a fixed presence in remote areas to support food and nutrition activities if we are to have any chance of avoiding an impending disaster,” Luma warns.

While the crisis is pushing the country towards a hunger catastrophe, WFP and partners race to expand food assistance to reach communities living in very remote and hard to reach areas. Words and photos from Jackie Dent

07/16/2014 - 14:35

When Governments, UN agencies and NGOs look to respond quickly and efficiently to a disaster, they call on supplies that are immediately available in UNHRD warehouses. By prepositioning relief items, the humanitarian community can support affected people at the very beginning of an emergency, often saving lives within the first 24 - 48 hours.

The UNHRD Network is managed by WFP and stores, manages and transports these emergency supplies. Here is some information you might not know about UNHRD: 

1) Six Locations 

The UNHRD Network has six depots, strategically located around the world and near disaster-prone areas so that any location can be reached within five hours flying time. All depots are near airports, ports and main roads for rapid response. The locations are: Accra (Ghana), Brindisi (Italy), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Panama City (Panama), Subang (Malaysia) and Las Palmas (Spain/Canary Islands).

2) Rapid Response

UNHRD is one of the first responders to emergencies around the world. Last year, when the devastating Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, UNHRD immediately began dispatching humanitarian cargo from three of its depots via charter aircrafts. In the video above you’ll see footage of rapid response following severe flooding in Serbia and Bosnia in May 2014.

3) Variety Of Items

UNHRD currently manages around 400 different types of emergency items; ranging from storage units to armoured vehicles, refrigerated medicine and ready-to-eat food. In 2013, the most common items sent from UNHRD depots to emergencies around the world were prefabricated office/accommodation units, tents, storage units, medical supplies and blankets.

4) Humanitarian Community

Currently, there are 59 humanitarian organisations who partner with UNHRD. They range between governments, UN agencies, international organisations and non-governmental organisations. 

5) Combining Cargo, Cheaper For All

When an emergency strikes, UNHRD consolidates cargo from a number of partners so transport costs are shared, making it more efficient for all.

6) Setting up

UNHRD has a team of trained staff who can go to emergency locations to help organisations set-up their equipment. Alex, above , works in UNHRD’s depot in Ghana and is currently in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) to set-up prefabricated offices for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Last week in Las Palmas, the humanitarian community welcomed the newest addition to the network of UN Humanitarian Response Depots (UNHRD), ready to respond to emergencies around the world. But what is UNHRD?

07/16/2014 - 12:17
Disaster Risk Reduction

Better preparedness measures deployed by the international community mean that these figures are on the decrease – but with floods, hurricanes, drought and conflict still claiming close to 10 million lives, more remains to be done.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is joining forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF as part of a disasters and emergencies preparedness programme, in a push to step up emergency preparedness - and limit the damage caused as a result of worldwide crises.

With a £20 million investment from DFID, WFP and UNICEF will scale up their disaster planning in 23 high-risk countries, where 17 million people are at risk from disasters, including 14 million women and children.

"Stretched to breaking point"

“There is a growing danger that while some countries are graduating from aid, others will be left behind,” said UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening when the plan was announced in April.

“The humanitarian system is already stretched to breaking point and we are facing ever more demands on the system, as we deal with the effects of a changing climate, growing population, conflict and extremism."

A team effort

Preparing for emergencies has always been a crucial part of WFP’s work but by partnering with other organisations and integrating efforts, greater protection will be provided to countries which have been significantly affected by natural and man-made disasters in the past - specifically Afghanistan, Chad, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine and the Philippines.

The humanitarian preparedness strengthening programme will focus on a number of core strategies including the pre-positioning of relief items and support equipment, the provision of expert training, simulation drills and monitoring of countries susceptible to disaster. WFP will also invest in innovative technology that can monitor and track disasters and provide more detailed risk analysis in disaster-prone regions.

It is widely recognised that being prepared for a disaster increases the effectiveness of humanitarian response and saves lives. For example, Bangladesh reduced casualties from 2 very comparable cyclones from 500,000 in 1972 to 3,400 in 2008.

 It also makes economic sense –every $1 invested in reducing the risk of disasters is saved several times in terms of emergency response and reconstruction.

 It may not be possible to prevent a disaster altogether, but by working with communities and humanitarian agencies to prepare, WFP can greatly reduce the negative effects of a disaster, saving lives and livelihoods.

Read more about how WFP is preparing for disasters.

DFID statement on disaster preparedness.


In 2013, a staggering number of people struggled to cope with the impact of conflict and natural disaster. The Syria conflict left 9.3 million people in need of urgent assistance, while Typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 6,000 people and destroyed over a million homes.

07/16/2014 - 09:52
Focus on Women, Responding to Emergencies

BATOURI  -- Fatimatou and her children arrived in Cameroon in February. They are living in a small refugee camp at Yokadouma, just inside Cameroon’s eastern border.  Her husband died a few years ago but several members of her extended family are also in Yokadouma and assist her. She was happy to answer questions about her life.

What are the biggest changes in your life?

Having no money and very little to do. Back in our village in C.A.R., I had a stall at the local market. I used to sell tomatoes, onions, oil…things like that. So I was always busy.  And even though I wasn’t rich we were OK. I’d like to start up a small business like that here. It’s going to be hard because I spent all my money just getting here. But maybe I can find a way.

What else has changed?

Well my two girls aren’t going to school. It’s too far away for them to go on foot. We’d need someone to take them on a motorbike. And they couldn’t go alone. It’s a shame. School is a good thing, especially for girls. Another difference is how we sleep. Back home, there were six of us sleeping in the bedroom – me  and the children. Here there are 21 people in the same room.

Is it all bad?

No. At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that. And I have friends and family here to help me.

When did you come to Cameroon?

About five months ago. We left with a lot of other people from our village when the trouble started. There was a lot of tension and people were getting attacked. It was too dangerous to stay. To go faster, we paid for a car to come part of the way – that was very expensive.

What did you bring with you?

I managed to bring another dress, so I can change my clothes. Same for the children. We didn’t bring anything else. We had to leave everything behind.

Is there something you were especially sorry to leave? 

Yes, my set of new white dinner plates. I had enough for 20 people. I had just bought them and they were so beautiful. Who knows what’s happened to them now.

Are you going to return to CAR? 

What for? What am I going to do there with all the fighting that’s happening? If the fighting stops and things settle down…maybe, I don’t know. It depends on what the rest of my family does. They will decide. I just want to be where they are.

What would you say to anyone reading about you?

We all used to live together in CAR, Muslims and Christians. There was no problem.  Now we’re all fighting each other. It's stupid. Now people like us have had to leave everything behind. And come here, where we have to start all over again. War is bad. People should be able to live together.

Fatimatou Djara is one of over 100,000 people who have arrived in Cameroon this year, fleeing the vicious bloodletting in the Central African Republic.  She and her three children receive food from WFP every month. In this interview, she explains some of the changes that life as a refugee brings.

07/15/2014 - 10:06

I still cannot believe that a little over a week ago, I was sitting outside, in a nice Parisian restaurant, drinking a lovely glass of wine while watching the sun go down.

Just now, I am sitting on the ground in front of my little studio. It is 5pm, I know I have one hour of daylight left. Then the street will go silent, no traffic to be heard in the city centre until 6 tomorrow morning.

My very first encounter with Bangui came as a shock. Of course, like anyone with the slightest interest in the Central African Republic, I had read about the camp for Internally Displaced Persons that is sitting on the brink of the airport. But when the plane flew over it while landing – so low I could see the people sitting in front of their tents – I couldn't do anything but hold back my breath and wonder what this assignment was going to be like.

In the past years, as a journalist and reporter, I have travelled extensively in Africa. I have been to war-torn countries, I have seen more than my share of starving children and desperate refugees. But now I am here longer term, for six months initially, and it does make a huge difference.

Getting out of the airport, there is a sign that says Bienvenue à Bangui la Coquette, which could be translated as "Welcome to Pretty Bangui". An old sign, with the paint peeling off, and just under it a checkpoint held by French peacekeeping soldiers.

Families Are Stuck Because They Couldn't or Didn't Want to Leave the City

Well, the prettiness of Bangui is long gone, obviously. With a 100 percent humidity and low maintenance, all the buildings look worn out – with the brown-red colour of the mud and the rusted roofs. But Bangui is also very much lively, with kids in uniforms in the streets, going to the few schools that remain open. Schools with windows that have no glass and probably very few teachers. Pretty much an ordinary poor central African town – not in any way close to the idea one could have of a capital.

The second shock was my very first food distribution, in the Muslim enclave called PK5. A few thousand people have been trapped there, some of them since early December, after widespread conflict and killings of civilians by armed groups.

You have to drive there in an armoured car. Once you leave the city centre, no more taxis, no traffic to speak of. Alongside the road some houses are just normal, the others are simply no longer there. These were the houses owned by Muslim residents. Everything is gone. Now even the bricks are being cleaned before going for sale.

The road is now called Boulevard de la Mort (Death Boulevard) by the people of Bangui. Once you pass the PK5 roundabout (which stands for "5 kilometres from the city centre") you jump into another world. Muslim families are stuck there because they couldn't or didn't want to leave the city. Now, if they try to go out, they may not survive for more than a few hundred metres.

A Vast Majority of Women and Children

The invisible border that surrounds the enclave is guarded in some parts by soldiers – French and of course the UN mission MINUSCA. Inside the district are also people hiding weapons, somewhere in the back streets. There are attacks launched from the enclave onto the neighbouring streets, although apparently the level of violence has been decreasing lately.

But the vast majority of the people there are women, elderly people and lots of little children. I stood there, watching them getting their monthly supply of food, and suddenly it became obvious. Those kids are the reason why it will be a while before I can sit in a nice Paris restaurant and have a lovely glass of wine. And honestly, I feel I am so lucky to be here.

July 2014, Central African Republic - While violence and displacement of people remain the daily routine, our colleague in Bangui, Donaig Le Du, shares her impressions from the field. Read her diaries and try to get a sense of what it's like to live and work in C.A.R. during these dramatic days. Here's the first episode of a series describing her first encounter with the capital, Bangui.