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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


1. In an emergency, refugees may be completely dependent on external food sources. An initial assessment of their health and nutritional condition and their numbers must be made as soon as possible. The types of programmes needed will be determined by this initial assessment. Continuous monitoring of nutritional status will ensure that the emphasis on different programmes can be adjusted in order to reflect changing conditions.

2. The causes of malnutrition are often complex and multi-sectoral (see Fig 1). Therefore coordinating the food and nutrition programmes with health and other vital sectors is essential.

3. Assistance must be appropriate to the nutritional needs of the refugees and be culturally acceptable. Foods prepared locally with local ingredients are preferable to imported foods. Infant feeding policies require particular attention.

4. Certain groups are more at risk of malnutrition than others. These include infants, children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, the sick and the elderly. Special action is required to identify the malnourished and vulnerable and to meet their additional needs. Where the refugees have already suffered a prolonged food shortage, many will be malnourished by the time of the first assessment.

5. If the refugees are already suffering the effects of severe food shortage, immediate action must be taken to provide food available locally which is acceptable to the refugees.

6. If insufficient acceptable food is available locally, it must be brought in from outside, initially by air if necessary. Flexibility and improvisation will be required, and time may be needed to develop the full response set out in this chapter.

7. This chapter should be read in conjunction with "Nutrition Guidelines" Mcins Sans Frontis (MSF), 1995, and UNHCR/WFP Guidelines for Estimating Food and Nutritional Needs, 1997 and Selective Feeding Programmes, 1999.