WFP and UNICEF strengthen cooperation to reduce child malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean | Press centre | UNICEF

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News note

WFP and UNICEF strengthen cooperation to reduce child malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean

PANAMA CITY, 6 August 2003 – The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed a new agreement today to strengthen their cooperation in reducing child malnutrition in Latin American and the Caribbean.

The agreement was signed by Per Engebak, UNICEF's Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Zoraida Mesa, WFP's Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Poverty and extreme poverty has substantially limited families access to an adequate diet, and this is particularly evident after natural disasters or economic crises,” said Mr. Engebak.  “The most recent and visible examples are in Guatemala with the drought and the fall in the price of coffee, as well as the economic crisis in Argentina, which caused an alarming rising the cases of acute malnutrition en children.”

The two agencies - who have a long history of working together to help children throughout the region - will strengthen their joint response to emergencies, provide nutritional support for young children and their mothers, monitor and assess progress, and improve the livelihoods of the poorest families.

“Together, we want to bring hope and a bright future to the children of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Ms. Mesa.  “By strengthening our cooperation with UNICEF we will improve our ability to reduce and prevent malnutrition throughout Latin America and the Caribbean”.

WFP recently moved its regional offices to Panama City (Clayton) to be closer to UNICEF and other agencies which already have their Latin American and Caribbean offices in Panama.

Both Mr. Engebak and Ms. Mesa praised the Panamanian government for assisting UN agencies in relocating to Panama and providing a positive and cooperative work environment.

The new agreement – in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding - will target children throughout Latin America and particularly in those countries where the challenge is the greatest, such as in Central America and Haiti and those countries that have faced repeated natural disasters or economic crises.

Specifically, WFP and UNICEF will work jointly in doing nutritional assessments and monitoring to help prevent nutritional deterioration in children.  Together, both agencies will focus particularly on preventing a decline into acute malnutrition among children who are already suffering from chronic malnutrition.  Expectant and nursing mothers who are at-risk of malnutrition will also be a critical focus. 

WFP is the food agency of the United Nations.  In 2002, WFP fed 72 million people in 82 countries.

UNICEF is dedicated to advocating for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to meet their full potential.

For more information, contact:

Viviana Limpias, UNICEF TACRO, 507-315-7481,
Cesar Villar, UNICEF TACRO, 507-3157485,




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