To get to Zero Hunger, food is not enough. Providing food assistance in an emergency can save lives, but the right nutrition at the right time can also help change lives and break the cycle of poverty.
This is why, as the leading organization providing food assistance to the world’s most vulnerable, the World Food Programme (WFP) prioritizes nutrition as a core element of its work.
Despite significant progress over recent decades, poor nutrition remains a colossal and universal problem, with one in three people on the planet affected by some form of malnutrition. Undernutrition – inadequate energy or nutrients – continues to affect more than 150 million children worldwide, while rates of overweight and obesity are also rising in all countries. Conflict and natural disasters are exacerbating the problem.
Malnutrition at its extremes can be a matter of life and death, and in the long term can hold back people and countries, undermining economies and development.
Where malnutrition threatens the world’s most vulnerable people, WFP is at the forefront to prevent it, and treat it when it does occur.
While addressing undernutrition in emergencies has long been our raison d’etre, our focus over the past few years has broadened to encompass all forms of malnutrition including vitamin and mineral deficiencies – also known as ‘hidden hunger’ – and overweight and obesity, alongside undernutrition. We’ve done so in recognition of the fact that, while seemingly unrelated, these problem stem from the same root causes: poverty, inequality and poor diets.
Our approach is integrated, with programmes designed to treat and prevent the direct causes of malnutrition, like inadequate diets, complementing programmes that address the underlying factors, such as poor knowledge of feeding practices or lack of clean water. We concentrate our efforts on the most vulnerable, targeting young children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and people living with HIV.
We work to improve the availability of and access to nutritious foods, and analyze and address the barriers that people face in consuming healthy diets, such as through our Fill the Nutrient Gap situation analysis tool. We help build the capacity of countries to find long-term solutions, and contribute to the broader policy dialogue on food and nutrition security.
With today’s complex and unprecedented challenges, no one organization can end malnutrition alone. WFP is committed to playing an integral role in inter-organizational initiatives and platforms such as the Committee on World Food Security, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, and in government-led partnerships with UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, businesses and academia, as well as local farmers, producers, retailers and communities. WFP also plays a leading role in bringing private sector partners into the fight against malnutrition as co-convener of the SUN Business Network.