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close this bookSCN News, Number 18 - Adequate Food: A Human Right (ACC/SCN, 1999, 116 p.)
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Nutrition in Emergencies

International Workshop on Public Nutrition and Emergencies: the Potential for Improving Practice Helen Young

On 17-18 June 1999 the Feinstein International Famine Center, School of Nutrition, Science and Policy, Tufts University, organized this workshop to consider the potential of a public nutrition approach in addressing nutritional problems in complex emergencies, and those involving population displacement. NGOs were well represented by both technical and non-technical staff; others from government, the UN system and academia attended. The participants concluded that among the wider humanitarian system there are misconceptions about the broad scope of nutrition. Presentations considered the nature of vulnerability, the concept of public nutrition, the responsibilities for addressing nutritional problems, and some of the operational tools and frameworks in use, including memoranda of understanding between key UN agencies, and also recent humanitarian codes and standards. Six case-studies based on practical field experience in Africa, illustrated the various components of a public nutrition approach, including the assessment and analysis of the underlying and basic causes of malnutrition, and the constraints that influence action within a specific context. Humanitarian response initiatives must address both the outcomes and underlying causes of malnutrition, and include all relevant actions that will have a positive impact on nutrition in a socially and politically aware manner. Important decisions about nutrition in emergencies are usually made by non-nutritionists, hence it was felt necessary to raise levels of awareness and understanding amongst all actors in the humanitarian sphere, particularly senior policy-makers, about the impact of their actions on nutrition. A critical step towards this goal is to strengthen the conceptual basis of thinking and understanding about the role and importance of nutrition in emergencies based on practical field experience.

The papers presented at the workshop and an overview of the proceedings will be published as a special issue of the Disasters Journal, which is available from: Blackwell Publishers Journals, 108 Cowley Rd, Oxford 0X4 1JF, UK or 350 Main St, Malden, MA 02148 USA.

Pre-cooked Split Peas (PSP®) for Refugees

According to the European NGO Code of Conduct on Food-Aid and Food Security, local and regional food purchases should be a priority. But what if, due to poor harvests and droughts, pulses are difficult to find in the recipient country or in the region, and give rise to speculation and high prices? What if the pulses purchased are of poor quality and require a long cooking time, and firewood is limited or not available in the area around the refugee camps? When purchases cannot be made locally or regionally, there is an alternative type of pulse which can offer many advantages to both the relief organizations and the recipients. Pre-cooked Split Peas (PSP®) can be prepared within 30 minutes without soaking using smaller amounts of water and firewood. PSP® have been tested and accepted by the WFP in 39 countries. PSP® contain a high level of protein (24%) and essential amino acids (i.e. Lysine: 1,660 mg/100g), and they are cost effective (± EURO 210 per tonne/ex-works) when compared to other protein sources. Pre-cooked with steam at 130°C, PSP® are almost completely free of impurities, insects or toxins and do not require fumigation.

Additional information or samples can be obtained from: Eric Rennies, Food Aid Consultant, tel: +32 2 230 27 05; fax: +32 2 230 01 43; Internet:

UNHCR/WFP Guidelines for Selective Feeding Programmes

These guidelines describe the basic principles and design elements concerning food and nutrition related aspects of Selective Feeding Programmes in Emergency and Relief situations. They are intended to provide guidance to WFP and UNHCR and other relief staff in the design, implementation and monitoring of Selective Feeding Programmes in both emergencies and protracted relief situations. The guidelines have been translated into French.

Copies can be obtained on the Web at or by contacting: R Bhatia, Health and Nutrition Unit UNHCR, P.O. Box 2500, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland; tel: + 41-22-7397681; fax: +41-22-7397366; email: [email protected] or A Callanan, Technical Support Unit ODT, Operations Department, WFP, Via Cesare Giulio Viola 68, Parco dei Medici, 00148 Roma, Italy; tel: +39-06-6513-223; fax: +39-06-6513-2817; email: [email protected]

(An additional contribution to this section topic was made by Peter Salama of CONCERN Worldwide.)