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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

Key References

Calculation of Nutritional value of Food Commodities (NUT-VAL), an EXCEL spreadsheet which can be used to calculate the nutritional value of ration scales, UNHCR, Geneva, 1998.

Commodity Distribution: A Practical Guide For Field Staff, UNHCR, June 1997.

IOM 88/89 - FOM 76/89 Policy for acceptance, distribution and use of milk products in refugee feeding programmes, UNHCR, Geneva, 1989. Also available in French.Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Joint Working Arrangements for Refugee, Returnee and Internally Displaced Persons Feeding Operations, Also available in French. WFP/ UNHCR, 1997.

Nutrition Guidelines, Mcins Sans Frontis (MSF), 1995. Essential Reading.

Nutrition Surveys in Emergency Situations, (Video, PAL, 38 min), UNHCR Geneva.

WFP/UNHCR Guidelines For Estimating Food and Nutritional Needs, Also available in French. WFP/UNHCR, 1997.

WFP/UNHCR Guidelines For Selective Feeding Programmes in Emergency Situations, WFP/ UNHCR, 1999.



Assessment of body size and composition which reflects food intake, physical activity and disease. Most common anthropometric indicators include weight, height and arm circumference.

Baseline data

Data collected at the beginning of a programme that can be compared with similar data collected later and so used to evaluate the impact of interventions or to monitor trends.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

(weight in kg)/ (height in m)2 which is used for assessing the nutritional status of adolescents and adults.

Fortified blended food

A flour composed of pre-cooked cereals and a protein source, mostly legumes, fortified with vitamins and minerals, e.g. corn soya blend (CSB), wheat soya blend (WSB) used for feeding programmes.


Adding micronutrients to foods, e.g. iodized salt and fortified blended food.


Unit of energy used in nutrition, 1 Kcal = 4.17 kilojoules.


Severe form of malnutrition characterized by oedema (swelling) particularly of the lower parts of the arms and legs.


Severe form of malnutrition in which the person becomes wasted.


Minerals and vitamins.

Mid-upper arm
circumference (MUAC)

Circumference at the mid-point of the left upper arm, which is an indicator of malnutrition and used as a tool for screening.


Those parts of food that are absorbed and/or used by the body i.e. carbohydrate, protein, fat, alcohol, vitamins and minerals.


An abnormal accumulation of fluid in intercellular spaces of the body. In case of nutritional oedema this is oedema due to a deficiency in the diet.

On-site feeding

Cooked meal eaten at the feeding centre.


Low height for age. Comparing the height of a child of a certain age with the height of reference (healthy) children of the same age indicates the level of chronic malnutrition.

Take-home rations

Dry rations that are given to people to take and prepare at home.

Therapeutic milk

Special milk used for rehabilitation of severely malnourished persons.


Abnormal loss of fat and/or muscle tissue which is indicated by a low weight for height, a low body mass index or observation (thinness).


Clinical signs in the eye caused by Vitamin A deficiency.


The weight of a person at a certain height compared with the reference weight for that height.