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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder15. Food and Nutrition
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganization of Food Support
View the documentNutritional Assessments
View the documentGeneral Feeding Programme
View the documentSelective Feeding Programmes
View the documentInfant Feeding and use of Milk Products
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes



In emergencies, food and nutritional security is often severely threatened. This causes increased risk of malnutrition, disease and death. Therefore, refugees will need partial or full food support. Some may also need nutritional rehabilitation.


To provide the refugees with sufficient quantities of appropriate food to maintain their health and nutritional status and, where necessary, to improve the condition of those who are already malnourished.

Principles of Response

· Measures to meet food needs should be appropriate and standardized, with responsibilities clearly defined, and the overall co-ordination ensured by a single organization;

· Whenever possible use familiar foods that meet nutritional requirements and maintain sound traditional food habits;

· The food distribution system should allow families to prepare their own meals;

· Pay particular attention to infant feeding and the needs of children, women and others prone to malnutrition;

· Maintain close co-ordination with the other vital sectors (health, water, environmental sanitation, etc.) and aim for maximum integration in existing services;

· Ensure the active involvement of a nutritionist.


· Assess health and nutritional status and food needs as soon as possible;

· Ensure the availability of appropriate food and the necessary transport, storage, cooking fuel and utensils;

· Organize a general feeding programme for all refugees and, if necessary, selective feeding programmes to meet the additional needs of children, women and others;

· Monitor effectiveness of feeding programmes and make necessary changes.