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close this bookRefugee Nutrition Information System (RNIS), No. 35 - Report on the Nutrition Situation of Refugees and Displaced Populations (UNSSCN, 2001, 70 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentHIGHLIGHTS
Open this folder and view contentsSUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
Open this folder and view contentsASIA - SELECTED SITUATIONS
View the documentTABLES AND FIGURES
View the documentNOTES
View the documentINDICATORS
View the documentREFERENCES


The 35th issue of the RNIS provides updates on selected emergency contexts around the globe. The focus is predominantly Sub-Saharan Africa and this reflects the greater amount of nutritional information from emergency contexts that is currently available for this region. There is also a large section on the Afghan Region which reflects the severity of the ongoing crisis. However, it is important to note that the situation is changing very rapidly, both in terms of numbers and the scale of the humanitarian response. Some previously covered countries have not been covered in this issue. This is because the RNIS has, for some time, been unable to source new information on the nutrition or food security situation of emergency affected populations in these contexts.

Detailed information on the surveys used in each RNIS issue is to be found in an annex at the back of the publication. The data comes from a variety of UN and NGO sources and the RNIS is very grateful for the information it receives and would like to encourage agencies to send data, where available, as regularly as possible to

The RNIS would also like to reiterate that it is mandated to provide information on the nutrition situation of refugees and displaced populations only. The RNIS cannot report the complexities of natural disasters such as the Horn of Africa drought. However, very extensive information is available on this and other natural and human made emergencies and can be accessed from the internet at

Various country specific information is also available, and the RNIS would like to draw people’s attention to reports by the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia at is also the Food Security Analysis Unit for Somalia which produces regular ‘Nutrition Updates’, containing very detailed area specific data and analysis. To receive these reports please contact Noreen Prendiville at

Map of Africa

Seasonality in Sub-Saharan Africa*

* SOURCES: FAO, “Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa”, Special Report; No 4/5.


Coastal area desert, SW semi-arid, rest of country: rains Sept-April


Three crop seasons: Sept-Jan, Feb-Jun., and Jul-Aug.


Rains March-Nov


Arid Climate


Two rainy seasons February to May and June to October


N-E is semi-arid to arid, Central and SW rains: March-May and Nov-Dec.


Rains March-Nov


Coast is semi-arid, rest wet-dry. Harvest May


Rains Feb-May with Aug. harvest and Sept-Nov with Jan harvest


Leone Rains March-Oct.


Two seasons: April to August (harvest) and October to January/February (harvest)


Rains April-Oct.


Rains begin May/June


Rains begin March/April


Two rainy seasons in S, one in N. Harvest August


Rains Mar-Oct.


Tropical climate. Harvest in N: November; in S January

The SPHERE Project Conceptual Model of the causes of malnutrition in emergencies (draft, adapted from UNICEF)

Note: the Sphere project is an initiative to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance and to enhance accountability of the humanitarian system, through the production of globally applicable minimum standards. The humanitarian Charter is at the core of the Sphere project - it re-affirms what is already known from international humanitarian law and human rights treaties. The charter makes explicit links to the defined levels of service delivery set out in the five core sectors: water supply and sanitation; nutrition; food aid; shelter and site planning; and health services. Together, the Charter and Minimum Standards offer an operational framework for accountability in humanitarian response - a common set of criteria for programme monitoring; a benchmark from which to make some judgement about the effectiveness of work; and, probably most importantly, a benchmark for use in advocacy to enhance levels of services. To obtain more information on the Sphere project at or

The UN ACC/SCN1, which is the focal point for harmonizing policies in nutrition in the UN system, issues these reports on the nutrition of refugees and displaced people with the intention of raising awareness and facilitating action to improve the situation. This system was started on the recommendation of the SCN's working group on Nutrition of Refugees and Displaced People, by the SCN in February 1993. After a break of some months this is a combined thirty-second and thirty third publication of a regular series of reports. Based on suggestions made by the working group and the results of a survey of RNIS readers, the Reports on the Nutrition Situation of Refugees and Displaced People will be published every three months, with updates on rapidly changing situations on an 'as needed' basis between full reports.

Information is obtained from a wide range of collaborating agencies, both UN and NGO (see list of sources). The overall picture gives context and information which separate reports cannot provide by themselves. The information available is mainly about nutrition, health, and survival in refugee and displaced populations. It is organised by “situation” because problems often cross national boundaries. We aim to cover internally displaced populations as well as refugees. The system is aimed at the most nutritionally vulnerable people in the world - those forced to migrate - and the problems of those displaced may be similar whether or not they cross national boundaries. Definitions used are given in the box on the next page. The sections entitled “Priorities and recommendations” are intended to highlight the most pressing humanitarian needs. The recommendations are often put forward by agencies or individuals directly involved in assessments or humanitarian response programmes in the specific areas.

The tables and figures at the end of the report provide a quick overview. Table 1 gives an estimate of the total refugee/displaced/returnee population, broken down by ‘risk’ category. Situations are classed into five categories relating to risk and/or prevalence of malnutrition. The prevalence/risk is indirectly affected by both the underlying causes of malnutrition, relating to food, health and care, and the constraints limiting humanitarian response. These categories are summations of the causes of malnutrition and the humanitarian response:

· Populations in category I - the population is currently in a critical situation; they either have a very high risk of malnutrition or surveys have reported a very high prevalence of malnutrition and/or elevated mortality rates.

· Populations in category II are currently at high risk of becoming malnourished or have a high prevalence of malnutrition.

· Populations in category III are at moderate risk of malnutrition or have a moderately high prevalence of malnutrition; there maybe pockets of high malnutrition in a given area.

· Populations in category IV are not at elevated nutritional risk.

· The risk of malnutrition among populations in category V is not known.

These risk categories should not be used in isolation to prescribe the necessary response.

In table 2, refugee and displaced populations are classified by country of origin and country of asylum. Internally displaced populations are identified along the diagonal line, which may also include some returnees. Figure I shows the trends over time in total numbers and risk categories for sub-Saharan Africa. Annex I summarises the survey results used in this report.