Summary of WFP/UNHCR Guidelines for Estimating Food and Nutritional Requirements
In line with recent recommendations by WHO and the Committee on International Nutrition1, WFP and UNHCR will now use 2,100 kcals/person/day as the initial energy requirement for designing food aid rations in emergencies. In an emergency situation, it is essential to establish such a value to allow for rapid planning and response to the food and nutrition requirements of an affected population. An in-depth assessment is often not possible in the early days of an emergency, and an estimated value is needed to make decisions about the immediate procurement and shipment of food.
1The Committee on International Nutrition (CIM) was established in October 1993 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) under the aegis of the Food and Nutrition Board and the Board on International Health, and with support from USAID. The CIN was established in response to agency needs for advice in the areas of nutrition, food, and health policy.The initial level is applicable only in the early stages of an emergency. As soon as demographic, health, nutritional and food security information is available, the estimated per capita energy requirements should be adjusted accordingly.
Food rations should complement any food that the affected population is able to obtain on its own through activities such as agricultural production, trade, labour, and small business. An understanding of the various mechanisms used by the population to gain access to food is essential to give an accurate estimate of food needs. Therefore, a prerequisite for the design of a longer term ration is a thorough assessment of the degree of self-reliance and level of household food security. Frequent assessments are necessary to adequately determine food aid needs on an on-going basis.
The importance of ensuring a culturally acceptable, adequate basic ration for the affected population at the onset of an emergency is considered to be one of the basic principles in ration design. The quality of the ration provided, particularly in terms of micronutrients, is stressed in the guidelines and levels provided will aim to conform with standards set by other technical agencies.
Copies of the Guidelines are available from Rita Bhatia, UNHCR, CP 2500,1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland Tel: 41 22 739 7366 Fax: 41 22 739 8308 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Anne Callanan, WFP, 426 Via Cristoforo Colombo, 00145 Rome, Italy. Tel: 396 651 32718 Fax: 396 651 32837 Email: email@example.com Source: WFP/UNHCR Guidelines for Estimating Food and Nutritional Requirements (draft), August 1997.
The Sphere Project - Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response
Recognizing the need for consistent, effective humanitarian relief, the Sphere Project aims to improve the quality of assistance provided to people affected by disasters (whether natural or man-made) and to improve the accountability of agencies to their beneficiaries, their membership, and their donors. In order to achieve this, a set of agreed-upon minimum standards in the core areas of humanitarian assistance of nutrition and food security, health services, shelter and site management, and water and sanitation is being developed.
The Sphere Project is a collaborative process, initiated in July 1997 by a number of major humanitarian organizations. It involves frontline NGOs, interested donor governments, and UN agencies. The steering committee for humanitarian response (SCHR)1 and InterAction2 are the leaders of this effort. Many other organizations are interested in the project as well. VOICE, a European consortium of agencies working in emergencies, holds observer status on the project management committee. UN agencies (including UNHCR, DHA, UNICEF, WFP) have stated their support for the project and are participating in the dialogue.
1An alliance for voluntary action of: Care International, Caritas Internationalis, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Save the Children Alliance, Lutheran World Federation, Médecins sans Frontières, Oxfam International and World Council of Churches.At the end of the project year a three-part document will be produced, The first part of the Sphere document will describe the Humanitarian Charter - the rights which humanitarian efforts support when normal social mechanisms have been disrupted. Either a natural or a manmade disaster may be the cause of such a crisis situation. The second section of the Sphere document will set out minimum standards in four essential sectors - nutrition and food security, water and sanitation, shelter and site selection, and health services. The third part of the document will take the expression of standards to the next step, demonstrating acceptable implementation procedures with descriptions of best practices from a variety of situations around the world.
2InterAction is a coalition of over 150 US-based non-profit organizations ("private and voluntary organizations," or PVOs) working to promote human dignity and development in 165 countries around the world.
Agencies involved in the project will then begin the process of disseminating the product for formal adoption within the international humanitarian system. A number of factors will contribute to compliance with the standards. There exists throughout the humanitarian system forward momentum towards greater accountability in practice. History shows that practice does change to adopt improvements as information is disseminated. Acceptance by the large number of agencies collaborating in the project will be a major step towards compliance.
These reports and further details are available by writing to Susan Purdin, Sphere Project Manager 150, Route de Ferney Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: 41 22 791 6202 Fax: 41 22 920 0972 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.ifrc.org/sphere/ Source: The Sphere Project, Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, Project Overview, and Project Progress Report Number 1.
Vitamin C Pilot Programme
The USAID Vitamin C Pilot Programme, initiated in March 1996, was designed to produce, provide, and evaluate food aid commodities with increased levels of vitamin C fortification. This was undertaken because general rations containing inadequate vitamin C, combined with a lack of diversity of food sources, have been named as the primary factors for outbreaks of scurvy in refugee, displaced, or famine affected populations. The project monitored the uniformity, stability and physical availability in corn-soy blend (CSB) and wheat-soy blend (WSB) products manufactured in the U.S.A. and distributed to India, Tanzania and Haiti.
Results indicate that the uniformity of distribution of vitamin C in the CSB and WSB products varied from plant to plant. This also varied within a given production run. There was little loss of vitamin C from the point of production to the point of distribution, even when shipping time was as long as nine months, however significant losses of vitamin C (around 70%) occurred during food preparation.
Given that these CSB and WSB products contain 40mg of vitamin C/100g, such cooking losses would mean that a daily ration of 30g would provide only 3.6mg of vitamin C. This is well below the recommended daily allowance of 27g1. Fortification levels could be increased and alternative forms of vitamin C that are not affected to such an extent by cooking could also be tried to improve this situation.
1Source UNHCR Food Aid and Nutrition Briefing Kit. Minimal allowances have been calculated by aggregating age-specific FAO/WHO RDAs and are based on a typical developing country demographic profile. Taken from Background Document 1 by M Toole for the Machakos Workshop, Dec. 1994.Based on current production, increasing the level of vitamin C in all CSB and WSB products to 90 mg/100g would reduce the overall production by 4,662 metric tons, and reduce the number of people being fed a ration of 30 g/day for a year by 425,797.
The results of this project have alerted the USDA to review its specifications and monitoring procedures concerning CSB and WSB products.
Taken from: Results Report on the Vitamin C Pilot Program, prepared by SUSTAIN, September 1997. The information contained in this report is not definitive. Sustain, 1400 16th Street, N.W., Box 35, Washington D.C. 20036, U.S.A. Tel: 202 328 5180 Fax: 202 328 5175 Email: email@example.com
Guiding Principles for Feeding Infants and Young Children During Emergencies (1997), WHO
The WHO's 'Guiding Principles for Feeding Infants and Young Children During Emergencies', prepared at the request of the World Health Assembly, is intended to provide a conceptual framework within which to implement programmes intended to protect a particularly vulnerable group - infants and children. When disaster strikes, whole communities are thrown into disarray, and while entire populations often become vulnerable to malnutrition, diarrhoeal diseases, acute respiratory infection, measles and malaria, infants (<12 months old) and young children (<3 years old) are amongst the most vulnerable. The most effective way to avert the disability and death so common among this group in the aftermath of a disaster, is to ensure the adequate feeding and care of infants and children. The document is structured around the following principles:
· All infants should be fed only breastmilk from birth to 4 to 6 months of age1.1World Health Assembly documents encourage exclusive breastfeeding to about six months - not 4 to 6 months - and endorse appropriate complementary feeding practices from about the age of six months (WHA 47.4, WHA 49.15).· Every effort should be made to create and sustain an atmosphere that encourages frequent breastfeeding for all children under two years of age. The premature cessation of breastfeeding is the most dangerous deviation from optimal infant feeding practices for young children living in conditions of poor sanitation, or who are already sick or malnourished.
· The quality, distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes at emergency sites must be strictly controlled as emergency conditions tend to aggravate health risks associated with artificial feeding.
· It is important that older children be provided with foods that are easy to eat and digest, and that nutritionally complement breast milk.
· Adequate household food security, and particularly the availability of food suitable for small children, should be an explicit consideration at every step of emergency resource planning and management.
· Care-giving capacities among emergency-affected populations should be strengthened to promote good infant and child feeding practices.
· The health and vigor of all children, but especially newborns, must be protected so they are able to suckle frequently and well.
· Maintaining an active and constant search for malnourished children is important. The underlying causes of malnutrition should be investigated and addressed.
· Interventions should begin immediately during the acute phase of an emergency. Efforts should be made to alleviate pressures on caregivers and to channel scarce resources for the benefit of infants and young children.
· A flexible approach to the care and feeding of infants and young children in emergency situations should be based on continual and careful monitoring.
· Members of the international nutrition and emergency relief community have been asked to review the Guiding Principles, which should be available in final form in the first six months of 1998.Source: Guiding Principles for Feeding Infants and Young Children During Emergencies - Review Version; World Health Organization (1997) doc. NUT/97.3. Copies of this document are available from Jim Akre, Programme of Nutrition, Family and Reproductive Health, WHO. Tel: 41 22 791 3325 Fax: 41 22 791 0746 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.