‘We couldn’t have done it without you!’

COVID-19 made 2020 one of WFP’s most challenging years yet, but thanks to UK funding, our life-saving programmes have continued in Mozambique

Photo: WFP/Chico Carneiro

By Vanessa Jones
Mozambique is affected by climate events more than any other country in the world. Each year, almost half the population is exposed to floods or drought, and much of the country is at risk of cyclones. With 80 percent of people relying on agriculture to survive, lack of food and malnutrition are a constant threat.

Since 2017, the UK has been funding WFP Mozambique to save lives when disaster strikes. Thanks to generous support of its Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), we are able to reach emergency-struck communities with specialized nutritious foods (SNF) to treat children aged under-5, along with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, who are suffering from malnutrition.

Saving lives and changing lives

Photo: Rafael Campos

As the largest humanitarian organization fighting hunger worldwide, WFP’s portfolio of programmes supports communities to become resilient and self-reliant in the long term. But in emergencies when infrastructure, homes, farms and health services are destroyed, the most important thing is to make sure everyone has enough to eat.

In Mozambique, FCDO funding allows WFP to support the government’s programme to treat moderate malnutrition in six of the country’s 11 provinces. This is done by training health workers to go to remote communities and screen for malnutrition, providing health facilities with SNF, and supporting health facility staff to dispense SNF correctly to those who need it.

When people are suffering from malnutrition, they need more energy and nutrients to recover than regular meals can provide. SNFs are nutrient- and energy-dense and are formulated to be eaten alongside the normal diet, not to replace it. WFP distributes SNF to children under the age of 5, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as these groups have very high nutrient needs and are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition.

Children under 5 are given a sachet containing a semi-solid ‘butter’ made from peanuts or chickpeas, which is high in calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten straight from the packet or mixed with porridge. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are given a calorie-dense flour which can be mixed with water to make a porridge. It also contains protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

The Specialized Nutritious Food journey

Photo: WFP/Rafael Campos

WFP oversees the transportation of SNFs from the manufacturer (often many thousands of miles away) right to the beneficiary. When the SNF shipment arrives in port, WFP staff arrive to check it before moving it to our warehouse by lorry. Here, our warehouse managers and field office personnel make sure it’s stored correctly. High temperatures, broken packaging and pests call all spoil the product, so it’s very important that the highest food safety standards are observed.

From the warehouse, the SNFs are transported by truck to local health facilities, where health staff give them to malnourished pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and children under 5 who come to the health facility for care.

Not one but two cyclones

Photo: WFP/Rafael Campos

In early 2019, the importance of FCDO funding was brought sharply into focus when tropical cyclone Idai struck Sofala province, causing catastrophic damage. Only six weeks later, the country was hit again — this time by tropical cyclone Kenneth in Cabo Delgado. These two cyclones were among the worst climate-related disasters Africa has ever known.

WFP responded by supplying health centres in the two provinces with SNF. In the 12 months following the cyclones, we reached 69,683 mothers and children in Cabo Delgado and Sofala, and 85,742 nationwide.

Programmes in the time of pandemic

Photo: WFP/Rafael Campos

COVID-19 has made our operations much more difficult. As well as logistic considerations of transporting vast quantities of SNF from one side of the world to another, we have had to make sure that everyone along the supply chain is safe — from the lorry drivers, to the warehouse workers, to the health centre staff, to the beneficiaries on collection day.

Despite the challenges, in 2020 we were able to distribute 650,000kg of SNF to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and 241,000kg of SNF to children under-5 in Mozambique.

This has meant that, thanks to FCDO, we reached almost 30,000 mothers and 48,000 children suffering from malnutrition with life-saving treatment.

As WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley said when he accepted WFP’s Nobel Peace Prize in December, we couldn’t do anything without our donors and partners. The UK is the third-largest WFP donor — and with their help, a huge swathe of Mozambican children now has the chance to grow up well-nourished and healthy.

Vanessa Jones is a writer at WFP’s Nutrition & HIV unit in Mozambique

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