WFP Shifts Focus To Capacity Development In Nutrition And Disaster Preparedness In Bhutan
The decision was made after consultations with Bhutan's government, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
By Namkhai Norbu | Business Bhutan
Contrary to popular speculation that the World Food Programme (WFP) would end its presence in Bhutan by the end of 2018, the international organisation will still be in the country till 2023.
The WFP will partner with Bhutan to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LCD) status to the Lower Income Country (LIC) status. It has been decided that there should be a strong need for WFP support in the country.
According to the WFP, the decision was made after consultations with the government and following a careful review of the needs in the country, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Shift in focus of WFP in Bhutan
However, WFP will not continue with the provision of in-kind food assistance. It will no longer be operational in food distribution as part of the school feeding programme.
WFP will instead shift its focus to institutional strengthening and capacity development in nutrition and Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR).
Based on the Bhutan Country Strategic Plan (CSP: 2019 – 2013), WFP will be setting up the following:
- national rapid post-disaster needs assessment capacity,
- national rice fortification programme,
- transition of the National School Feeding Programme to a National School Nutrition Programme and
- strengthening the national capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters.
As part of the new role, the WFP has taken the lead for the UN in DPR and will support the Bhutanese government in coordination, data preparedness, logistics, emergency telecommunications and food security.
The agency, with the government has also developed a Road Map for Disaster Risk Management for Bhutan to guide coordination, actions and investments of both development partners and government partners.
It will look into the establishment of national 72 hours post disaster needs assessment capacity to enable disaster response within 72 hours.
An Earthquake Impact Model, based on the global data and experience from the Nepal EQ, will be developed by Durham University.
It is planned to model various earthquake scenarios and their likely impact in Bhutan to better inform disaster contingency planning.
WFP’s role in improving the dietary and health practices of school aged children
As for nutrition, the WFP is assisting the government in developing a national regulatory framework for food fortification and compliance, supported by the development of national fortification standards and the setting up a rice fortification blending facility.
Karma, a student at the Yurung school in southern Bhutan, holds a freshly harvested pumpkin from the school’s garden.
Photo: WFP/Angeli Mendoza
Additionally, WFP is also assisting the government in developing a national framework for the improvement of dietary and health practices of school aged children (6-18 years).
This is expected to support the government’s transition of the National School Feeding programme to a National School Nutrition Programme.
WFP will also support the completion of the National School Nutrition Strategy 2018-30. It will help to develop the following:
- a Behaviour Change Strategy for school children and community
- a nutrition and district-based menu design,
- national health and nutrition curriculum for school age children from 6-18 years and
- training of teachers and cooks, create cookbooks and make model kitchens.
The agency will also train 9,000 farmers in planning and production, post-harvest techniques, farmer organisation and business management. It will then link them to schools for increased dietary diversity by providing fresh local food. This will thereby increase the farmers’ income as well.
The country office will also assist Bhutan to reach the SDGs and address the accelerating inequalities caused by new technology such as artificial intelligence.
To replace the current paper-based system and to reduce food waste and waste of nutritional supplements (Vitamin A and deworming pills etc), a health and education monitoring and reporting system has been developed and rolled out nation-wide.
The system will also generate more gender-aggregated data and show the dietary diversity of school children to aid in the design of more nutritious meals.
A game-based learning platform for nutritional education and behaviour change is also planned to motivate children and to integrate physical activities in the school’s learning session.
Another innovation includes the Menu Optimizer Tool to reduce the cost of the school menu by increasing the usage of local food.
The menu will be designed based on set requirements such as: nutritional content, quantities, maximum cost and the proportion of local food used.
A budget of USD 9m has been earmarked for the next five years, according to the Bhutan Country Strategic Plan, with the largest share going to nutrition support.
The WFP will help to build national human capital and support the government in driving down the costs of programmes and services.
This article first appeared in Business Bhutan and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.