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Infant and young child feeding in emergencies programming in the context of COVID-19: learnings from a webinar series

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By Alessandro Iellamo, Linda Shaker Berbari, Ben Allen, Brooke Bauer, Aashima Garg, Andi Kendle, Peggy Koniz-Booher, Mija Ververs and Deborah Joy Wilson

Alessandro Iellamo is Global Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) Adviser for Save the Children.  

Linda Shaker Berbari is the Infant Feeding in Emergencies (IFE) Core Group facilitator and consultant for ENN. 

Ben Allen is Deputy Program Director of the Tech RRT (now part of the Global Nutrition Cluster Technical Alliance’s Technical Support Team) 

Brooke Bauer is the IYCF-E Advisor for the Global Nutrition Cluster Technical Alliance. 

Aashima Garg is Nutrition Specialist at UNICEF Headquarters, New York.

Andi Kendle is Coordinator of the Global Nutrition Cluster Technical Support Team. 

Peggy Koniz-Booher is JSI/USAID Advancing Nutrition Senior Advisor. 

Mija Ververs is Senior Associate at Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins University. 

Deborah Joy Wilson is Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) Specialist and Inclusive Nutrition Operations Team Lead, at World Food Programme Headquarters, Rome.


In late 2019, the Infant Feeding in Emergencies (IFE) Core Group1 webinar committee organised a series of webinars to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the endorsement of the Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) Operational Guidance (OG-IFE, 2017) by the World Health Assembly. This committee is chaired by Save the Children and has representatives from UNICEF, the World Food Programme, Johns Hopkins University, the Center for Disease Control, Emergency Nutrition Network, Technical Rapid Response Team (TechRRT)2 and USAID Advancing Nutrition. The aim of the webinar series was to highlight the OG-IFE and showcase best practices from the field on how the guidance has been successfully implemented. However, in early 2020 when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and the relevant guidance was issued (GTAM, UNICEF (2020); UNICEF & USAID (2020); Word Health Organization (WHO) (2020)), the aim of the webinars was redirected to focus on IYCF-E programmatic adaptations in the context of COVID-19. 

Implementation of the webinar series

The webinar series aimed to raise awareness of the updated recommendations for IYCF-E best practices in the context of COVID-19, share best practices and lessons learnt on implementing the OG-IFE in the context of COVID-19, provide examples of programmatic adaptations at the country level and galvanise actors for scaling up evidence-based and collective actions for the effective implementation of the OG-IFE in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinars were referred to as ‘Learning and Sharing Cafés’ to reflect the intended informality of the events and to encourage the sharing of programme experiences in a safe space and active engagement and interaction by the audience. The webinars attracted a wide range of practitioners and decision-makers including frontline field workers, staff from government entities, national and international organisations, programme managers, technical advisors in both nutrition and non-nutrition fields, donors and policy- and decision-makers. A process for soliciting interest was initiated by the webinar committee to encourage countries and organisations to prepare presentations on their programme experiences. A total of 15 proposals were received, reviewed and scored by the webinar committee resulting in 12 being included in the final line-up.

The Learning and Sharing Cafés were organised and facilitated under the guidance of the IFE Core Group and TechRRT. Members of the webinar committee led the facilitation of the cafés on a rotational basis. The cafés followed a standard format including a welcome and introductions, an overview of the objectives of the session, the presentation of two or three case studies, an interactive quiz, a facilitated questions and answers session, closing remarks and a session evaluation. The details of each webinar and the key learning points are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary of learning and sharing café sessions



Topics and presenters


6 April 2020

  • Infant feeding and COVID-19: Current evidence and recommendations (John Hopkins University)
  • IYCF-E in the context of COVID-19 (UNICEF)
  • Communication on protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding during COVID-19 (Safely Fed Canada)
  • How we can continue to protect, promote and support infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in the context of COVID-19 (Save the Children)

Café #1

30 July 2020

  • IYCF programmatic adaptations in the context of COVID-19: resources and tools (IFE Core Group),
  • Remote IYCF-E support in Colombia (Save the Children Colombia) 
  • IYCF-E in Somalia  (Save the Children Somalia)

Café #2

10 August 2020

  • How to communicate: infant and young child feeding recommendations in the context of COVID-19 – IYCF-E (USAID/UNICEF)
  • Adaptations experience in the context of COVID-19 in Somalia (Concern Worldwide Somalia)
  • IYCF-E adaptations in the mother baby areas of Uganda (Save the Children Uganda) 

Café #3

22 October 2020

  • IYCF-E to strengthen IYCF practices during COVID-19 in Nepal (Helen Keller International)
  • Adaptations to routine IYCF activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Jordan (International Medical Corps Jordan)
  • Kyrgyz Republic adaptation of nutrition programming for COVID-19  (JSI/USAID Advancing Nutrition, Kyrgyz Republic)

Café #4

27th October 2020

  • IYCF-E response in Syria during COVID-19 (UNICEF Syria)
  • IYCF programming during COVID-19 in Sierra Leone (Action Against Hunger and Community Action for the Welfare of Children)
  • IYCF-E interventions in Lebanon ( International Orthodox Christian Charities Lebanon)

Café #5

30 November 2020

  • IYCF-E response in South Sudan during COVID-19 (Action Against Hunger South Sudan)
  • Infant feeding with refugees in Greece (CHEERing)
  • IYCF-E and COVID-19 in Yemen (International Medial Corps Yemen)

Summary of main programmatic adaptations

Key adaptations and challenges around IYCF-E programming in the context of COVID-19 were shared in the webinars from a wide range of actors in varied contexts. Across these learnings many common adaptations were made. These are summarised as follows:

Practising COVID-19 preventative measures

Adapting individual and group support activities

Capacity-building and developing information, education and communication (IEC) materials

The challenges to programming identified in the experiences shared include a lack of suitable infrastructure needed to allow social distancing and other hygiene practices, insufficient quantities of PPE including face masks, funding gaps and gaps in human resources to support additional activities. Two detailed case studies are presented in articles within this edition of Field Exchange from Somalia3 and Lebanon.4

Feedback from the cafés

A total of 1,555 individuals registered for the webinars representing countries from all over the world and 665 (43%) attended the events. The majority of the participants were female (73%). A post-webinar evaluation revealed a high level of participant satisfaction. Results of a rapid survey revealed that 88% were aware of the WHO Breastfeeding and COVID-19 FAQ5 and 49% made some adaptations to this document for their own use. A total of 71% of respondents knew the USAID/UNICEF IYCF in the context of COVID-196 counselling package and 48% made some adaptations to this package for their use. This demonstrates a need to continue updating programmers around existing guidance and the ways that this can be translated into context-specific programme adaptations/guidance. 

Several recommendations for webinars in 2021 were made including technical themes such as complementary feeding in emergencies, community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) and IYCF-E, maternal mental health, conducting IYCF-E assessments, developing IYCF-E indicators and adolescent and maternal nutrition linkages with IYCF-E. The webinar committee of the IFE Core Group is planning new webinars in response to these recommendations to share new country case studies and newly emerging guidance and themes to support the continuation of quality IYCF programming in the light of COVID-19.

The webinars can be found at the following link:


For more information, please contact the IFE Core Group at


2 Since December 2021, the Technical Rapid Response Team (Tech RRT) has been expanded to form the Technical Support Team (TST) of the Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC) Technical Alliance. More information can be found here:

3 See article in this edition of Field Exchange entitled “Adapting infant and young child feeding interventions in the context of COVID-19 in Somalia

4 See article in this edition of Field Exchange entitled, “Infant and young child feeding in emergencies: Programming adaptation in the context of COVID-19 in Lebanon ”

5 WHO Breastfeeding and COVID-19 FAQ

6 USAID/UNICEF IYCF in the context of COVID-19 counselling package


GTAM, UNICEF (2020) Infant and Young Child Feeding in the Context of Covid 19, Brief no. 2. Available from:

IFE Core Group (2017) Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, Operational Guidance. Available from:

UNICEF & USAID Advancing Nutrition (2020) Counselling Cards on Infant and Young Child Feeding Recommendations when COVID 19 is suspected or confirmed. Available from:

WHO (2020) Frequently asked questions: Breastfeeding and COVID 19. Available from:



Reference this page

Alessandro Lellamo and Linda Shaker Berbari (). Infant and young child feeding in emergencies programming in the context of COVID-19: learnings from a webinar series. Field Exchange 65, May 2021. p9.



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