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Joint Consultation on Caring for Nutritionally Vulnerable In Emergencies

WHO/UNHCR organised a consultation on Caring for the Nutritionally Vulnerable which was hosted by the National Institute of Nutrition (also a WHO collaborating centre) in Rome in February this year.

The background to the meeting is the 1992 ICN at which UNICEF presented a paper on Care with women and children defined as the primary vulnerable group. The ICN identified the need to expand the model for care to include other vulnerable groups.

Care and caring practices are ambiguous terms, which mean different things to different people. This ambiguity and wide variety of interpretation of terms was reflected among meeting participants so that the first part of the meeting was taken up with efforts to clarify terms. It was difficult to achieve consensus both on the definition of Care and the basis on which nutritional vulnerability is determined. Furthermore, meeting participants were cautious about prior categorisation of vulnerable groups, as it was felt that such groups should be defined, based on contextual assessment of specific emergencies, and that contexts varied enormously and were continuously evolving.

The conceptualisation of 'Care' was different amongst the participants. Ranging from ; interventions made which can't be categorised as food or health interventions, to all or any pragmatic support designed to satisfy benificiary needs in emergencies.
It was not until the second part of the meeting, when a number of field staff from UNHCR, Concern and ICRC presented case studies, that the definitional issues and resulting implications were clarified.

Participants were then organised into working groups, with each group having responsibility for developing outlines for caring strategies which would reduce nutritional vulnerability in specific vulnerable groups in emergency situations.

Each working group spontaneously approached their tasks, by first outlining a number of guiding principles, and then proceeded to outline strategies and activities to ensure care in emergency interventions for the particular group they had been given.

During presentation of group work it became apparent that care was viewed as the process which would improve impact of interventions (e.g. food security and health). It was striking to note how similar all groups guiding principles were, and that they were not particular to individual vulnerable groups.

WHO and UNHCR are currently preparing a document which will go beyond the guiding principles and provide strategies and practices for their implementation.

For further information contact Dr. Chizuru Nishida, Nutrition, WHO, 20 Ave Appia 27 Geneva, Switzerland. Email: NishidaC@who.ch

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Reference this page

Joint Consultation on Caring for Nutritionally Vulnerable In Emergencies. Field Exchange 4, June 1998. p16. www.ennonline.net/fex/4/joint