The State of the World's Children 1998: Focus on Nutrition

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Panel 8

UNICEF and the World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP), the food aid organization of the United Nations system, began operations in 1963 and is now the largest such organization in the world. WFP responds to food needs associated with emergencies and development, often working with the other two Rome-based agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organ i za tion of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agri cul tural Development (IFAD).

WFP provides three broad categories of food aid: emergency rations for victims of natural and man-made disasters (Food-For-Life); food aid distributed through health clinics, schools and other community centres to particularly vulnerable groups (Food-For-Growth); and food rations provided in exchange for work on development projects (Food-For-Work). In all three categories, much of WFP's work is linked to the priorities and efforts of UNICEF.

The link between the two sister agencies goes beyond organizational coordination. Their work is complementary, and they share common goals. Both recognize that children are at once the most vulnerable group in society - and yet the future of every community. Together, the two agencies have the tools to attack malnutrition, helping to ensure access to adequate nutrition, with food, health and care, and to fight with a unified voice for the elimination of hunger.

In crisis situations requiring Food-For-Life assistance, UNICEF and WFP collaborate to provide therapeutic and supplementary feeding to save the lives of young children during emergencies, as occurred in the recent past in the countries of former Yugoslavia. They also share logistics capacity, for example in Uganda, where WFP stored UNICEF's health kits and supplementary feeding supplies, subsequently transporting them to Rwanda during the sudden return of refugees in late 1996. And they cooperate in making joint assessments of the problem of inadequate nutrition and priority needs for addressing it, as in the case of the Dem o cratic People's Republic of Korea, where a nutrition assessment was completed in September 1997. In southern Sudan, the two agencies, together with NGOs and counterparts, lead an annual needs assessment mission, which not only examines food security but also 'health security', based on nutritional status and access to health services.

UNICEF and WFP also work together on post-conflict projects, such as the demobilization of child soldiers. In Bukavu, in eastern Demo cratic Republic of the Congo, WFP provides food to a centre set up by UNICEF to help children who fought in the civil conflict reintegrate in society.

Food-For-Growth, the cornerstone of one of WFP's major priorities, is particularly close to the concerns of UNICEF. This type of food aid is designed to provide assistance to mothers and children and other vulnerable groups at critical times in their lives. In Zambia, UNICEF worked closely with WFP in 1994 to ensure that a food supplement, aimed at pre venting malnutrition in young chil dren during prolonged drought, was appropriately formulated and fortified. The high-energy protein supplement was used as part of a coordinated programme to provide both food and health care to children judged to be at particularly high risk of malnutrition.

In Madagascar, UNICEF and WFP work together to rehabilitate schools in the poorer regions of the south. UNICEF provides school kits and equipment, and WFP contributes school meals.

The two agencies also work together on Food-For-Work projects when such aid dovetails with UNICEF mandates. In Malawi, for example, following the introduction of free primary education in 1994, WFP and UNICEF later designed a school feeding programme with the aim of 'Keeping kids in school'. Mothers of schoolchildren are 'paid' a food allocation in exchange for the preparation of school meals.

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