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Nutrition in emergencies working group, SCN 2004

At the 31st Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) session held recently in New York (21-25 March, 2004), progress of the Nutrition in Emergencies Working Group (NEWG) was reviewed. Chaired by Saskia van der Kam (Médecins Sans Frontières), work was presented in six subject areas (theme groups). The contribution of the NEWG activities to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, the central theme of the 31st session, was also considered at the meeting.

Adult malnutrition

Bradley Woodruff (CDC) and Jane Knight (University of Aberdeen) presented a joint research initiative by University of Aberdeen (leading), Partners Research Emergency Nutrition (PREN), the Humanitarian Scientific Advisory Group (including ENN, CDC, Epicentre) and the NGO Support Group. The study aims to explore and develop a model to increase the generalisability and robustness of current indicators of severe adult malnutrition during complex emergencies, by literature review (published and unpublished) and analysis of data including context. Agencies were requested to forward any related information including reports, raw data, patient cards, surveys and articles.

Community based therapeutic care (CTC)

Kate Sadler (Valid International) outlined the considerable progress made in managing severe malnutrition in a community setting. Working plans for this group are to consolidate community treatment of severe malnutrition, including an intervention framework, and to develop an approach to managing severely malnourished infants.

Food security

Rita Bhatia (WFP) outlined WFP's goals for food aid in emergencies including plans to integrate educational support and gender disparity reduction into programming. WFP is also examining the efficacy of in country fortification of food aid in order to improve ration quality.

Fathia Abdallah (UNHCR) and Andrew Seal (Institute of Child Health, London) outlined how UNHCR is investigating micronutrient deficiency assessment methods, improving micronutrient supplementation (specifically the use of iron cooking pots to increase the iron consumption), and the development of nutrient analysis software. In addition, several NGOs are investigating ways of fortifying food rations of internally displaced populations, refugees and people living with HIV/AIDS. Research on persistent micronutrient malnutrition in longterm African refugees was also presented, which found a high prevalence of anaemia and iron deficiency associated with dietary iron insufficiency, and vitamin A deficiency. A key recommendation was to include simple methods of micronutrient surveillance in routine operations.

Care practices in emergencies

Care practices in emergencies were highlighted as an underdeveloped sector amongst agencies working in emergencies. Cecile Bizouerne (ACF) presented research findings from Sudan and Afghanistan, which explored mental and social issues in caring practices. Recommendations included compiling information on the type of mental and social support given by agencies in nutritional programmes, and using these to inform how we can adapt ways to address care practices in emergencies.

Marie McGrath (ENN) presented an update on training materials on infant feeding in emergencies, on behalf of a core inter-agency group involved in their development . Module 1, Infant Feeding in Emergencies, for relief staff, has been evaluated and is being widely used as resource material and in training. Module 2, which targets health and nutrition workers, has a greater technical content and is nearing completion, including sections on managing malnourished infants under six months, and artificial feeding in emergencies. Plans include targeting and evaluating both modules, and identifying funding resources to develop a third training module, on complementary feeding in emergencies. Gaps in the evidence base for managing severe malnutrition in infants under six months were highlighted1.

Nutrition and disease

In view of the the many emerging issues and initatives relating to nutrition and HIV/AIDS, it was decided that a representative of the nutrition in emergencies working group join the Nutrition and HIV/AIDS working group, to encourage a working link between the two groups.

Capacity development

A written update on capacity development for nutrition in emergencies was submitted by Annalies Borrel (Tufts University). This included a list of available courses, which have a focus on emergency nutrition, and is available on NutritionNet (, and will be updated in June 2004. Other initiatives include the publication of the second edition of the Sphere manual, and the ongoing SMART project.

Plans for the SCN 2005

The NEWG will be chaired by Fathia Abdallah (UNHCR) and Caroline Wilkinson (ACF France). Each of the theme groups which comprise the working group are represented by a focal person(s). In 2005, a larger meeting is planned just before the SCN annual meeting, as there are many issues to be discussed in depth.

For further information or to contribute to the activities of the working group, contact Fathia Abdallah, email: or Caroline Wilkinson, email:

A full report on the NEWG meeting can be found at

Show footnotes

1See for fuller update on infant feeding in emergencies activities presented at SCN

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Reference this page

Nutrition in emergencies working group, SCN 2004. Field Exchange 22, July 2004. p15.



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