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close this bookFood and Nutrition Needs in Emergencies (WHO - OMS, 55 p.)
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View the documentFOREWORD
View the documentPREFACE
View the documentCONTEXT AND PURPOSE
View the documentBASIC PRINCIPLES
Open this folder and view contentsPLANNING A RATION
Open this folder and view contentsMONITORING AND FOLLOW-UP
View the documentFURTHER READING
Open this folder and view contentsANNEXES


According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 25(1), "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food... ". In emergency contexts, it is important to reaffirm the fundamental right of everyone to have access to adequate and safe food. The Humanitarian Charter and the Minimum Standards (1998)1 aim to quantify people’s requirements for water and sanitation, food and nutrition, shelter and health care. Taken together, the Humanitarian Charter and the Minimum Standards contribute to an operational framework for accountability in diverse humanitarian assistance efforts.

1 Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. The Sphere Project. Geneva, 1998.

Food supply should be adequate to cover the overall nutritional needs of all population groups in terms of quantity, quality and safety. In emergency situations, where populations are dependent on food assistance, an "adequate food ration" meets the population’s minimum energy, protein and fat requirements for survival and light physical activity. An adequate food ration is also nutritionally balanced, diversified, culturally acceptable, fit for human consumption and suitable for all sub-groups of the population.

Because micronutrient deficiencies are common worldwide - and endemic in many developing countries - rations should provide adequate micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), where possible, particularly for populations entirely dependent on food aid.

For planning purposes, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Committee on International Nutrition recommend that an average of 2,100 kcal per person/per day be used as an initial planning figure. This estimate covers the energy needs of a typical population in a developing country, assuming a standard population distribution, body size, ambient temperature, pre-emergency nutritional status and light physical activity level (PAL).2 Since implementation of revised Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) (UNHCR/WFP, July 2002; WFP/UNICEF, February 1998), the three agencies have adopted 2,100 kcal as their initial planning figure for calculating energy requirements and designing food rations.

2 Light PAL defined as 55 percent above the basal metabolic rate (BMR) for males and 56 percent above the BMR for females.

The process of tailoring food requirements for a specific population requires a number of considerations. The initial planning figure for energy should be adjusted according to environment, demographic and physiological criteria specific to the affected population. Food commodities are then selected to meet basic nutritional requirements. Finally, other factors are considered to ensure that the ration is appropriate to all population sub-groups, such as infants and young children, pregnant and lactating women and the older persons. Food-management aspects and the underlying preconditions for ensuring adequate nutrition (such as the social and health situation or environmental issues) are also considered when estimating food and nutritional needs in emergencies.