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Guiding Principles for Infant Feeding in Emergencies


Summarised by Jane Wallace SCN, Geneva

This draft document from the World Health is intended to set out principles which can be used to guide programme implementation. 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 among the most vulnerable. The most effective way to avert the disease 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:

  1. Exclusive breast feeding up to 4-6 months.
  2. The creation of a supportive atmosphere which encourages frequent breastfeeding for all children under two years of age.
  3. The strict control of the quality, distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes at emergency sites.
  4. For older children, the importance of the provision of foods that are both easy to eat and digest and that complement breast milk nutritionally.
  5. Explicit consideration given to adequate household food security, and particularly the availability of food suitable for small children, at every step of emergency resource planning and management.
  6. The strengthening of care-giving capacities among emergency-affected populations to promote good infant and child feeding practices.
  7. The maintenance of an active and constant search for malnourished children is important. The underlying causes of malnutrition should be investigated and corrected.
  8. Immediate interventions during the acute phase of an emergency. Efforts made to alleviate pressures on caregivers and to channel scarce resources for the benefit of infants and young children.
  9. The maintenance of a flexible approach to ensure care and feeding of infants and young children in emergency situations 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 semester of 1998.

Based on: Guiding Principles for Feeding Infants and Young Children During Emergencies - Review Version; World Health Organisation (1997) document NUT/97.3.

Imported from FEX website


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