The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with the Directorate of Health Services in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, has formally launched a programme to prevent stunting in the Kurram Agency of FATA. Stunting occurs when a child’s growth and development is impaired from poor nutrition. The effort aims to prevent chronic malnutrition in children under five years of age as well as in pregnant women and nursing mothers. In the Kurram Agency, stunting rates stand at 57.6 percent, which is alarmingly high and well above the global average.
The initiative is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – Pakistan and will focus on preventing stunting during the “1,000-day window of opportunity,” the period between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. Inadequate nutrition during this time can irreversibly affect a child’s cognitive and physical development. WFP will work with the Office of Research Innovation and Commercialization (ORIC) in Kurram to deliver locally produced specialized nutritious food for children aged 6-24 months, along with pregnant women and nursing mothers, through an extensive network of community-based female health workers and health facilities. In addition, children aged 24-59 months will receive micronutrient supplements. More than 75,000 children and women will benefit from the programme, and government staff will be trained to support and implement the programme to ensure its sustainability.
Senior officials from the FATA Secretariat, Directorate of Health, Khyber Medical University (KMU) and WFP participated in the launch event on 18 August. The chief guest of the event, Mr. Muhammad Fida Wazir, Additional Chief Secretary FATA stated that, subject to the availability of resources, the initiative will be gradually extended to other agencies of FATA.
The Vice Chancellor of KMU noted that this effort will strengthen the evidence base for providing specialized food for children and mothers to prevent stunting. Together with WFP programmes to support livelihoods and school feeding, he expressed hope that this programme will help reverse the trends of stunting in FATA.
“Stunting can rob children of the opportunity to reach their full potential in life,” said WFP Pakistan Acting Country Director Stephen Gluning. “In order to break the inter-generational cycle of undernutrition, we need to focus on mothers and very young children. We’ve already seen this approach show very promising results in Sindh, and we are hoping to see similar improvements in FATA.”
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with the communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists 80 million people in 80 countries.