Innovative regional approaches to improving Nutrition in Emergency (NiE) preparedness and response capacity from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)
By Stefano Fedele, Regional Nutrition Specialist and Rebecca Olson, NiE Consultant at UNICEF LAC Regional Office
Nutrition hazards, risks, vulnerability and capacity in LAC
Improving preparedness and response capacity for NiE in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is a challenging task. LAC has the highest urbanisation rate in the developing world, with 79% of the population living in cities. After Asia, it is also the region with the highest number of natural disasters, predominantly occurring during the hurricane season between May and November. Floods and storms are related to almost 70% of the disasters recorded. In absolute numbers, flood-related disasters have quadrupled in the past decade and storm-related disasters have increased five-fold. Drought-related disasters are also rising, with three and a half times as many in the past decade compared to the 1970s.
The risk of being affected by natural disasters is compounded by the level of the hazard and the degree of vulnerability. In the Caribbean region, with its diverse island states and annual tropical storms, there is a wide range of risk levels. In Haiti, low human development and severe environmental degradation cause far more damage compared to other Caribbean states, despite similar levels of exposure.
In recent decades, LAC has made significant strides in understanding and improving policies for disaster management, early warning systems and organisation of emergency response. If the 230,000 estimated deaths due to the Haiti earthquake and the recent Ecuador earthquake in which nearly 700 lost their lives are excluded, overall, fewer people die from natural hazards in the region today than a decade ago. Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica are among the countries in the region that have improved their capabilities to predict some risks, as well as prepare for and manage emergencies. Moreover, although the capacity to ensure food assistance at times of emergency has increased, the prioritisation of nutrition as a programme area at times of disaster and the capacity to ensure adequate nutrition specific preparedness and response is not the same across the region.
Floods and droughts in LAC are expected to increase in frequency, intensity and unpredictability in the future. Providing safety nets and protecting communities present an increasingly difficult challenge for governments in the region. The least developed sub-national areas which are currently enduring higher rates of child stunting and inequity are also likely to be the most affected by climate change and consequent reduction in yields of subsistence crops, cash crops, soil and forest productivity and reduced livestock production. Infectious disease rates are also likely to increase due to the deterioration of water quality during droughts or floods.
While acute malnutrition (wasting) rates have steadily declined in LAC, and are generally below one per cent, the capacity to monitor any sudden increase and to promptly identify, refer and treat cases is still very limited in primary and secondary health facilities. Spikes that can occur in both emergency and non-emergency settings are often under-reported, increasing the risk of mortality and morbidity. In addition, exclusive breastfeeding rates are reducing in most LAC countries and, despite LAC’s high exposure to natural hazards, nutrition is too often seen by national authorities as primarily a health service supply issue or a problem that only needs food assistance to be addressed.
Regional and sub-regional NiE coordination: GRIN-LAC
Since 2013 UNICEF’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (LACRO), based in Panama, has been supporting the development of a regional NiE group called GRIN-LAC (Grupo de Resiliencia Integrada de Nutrición), to strengthen NiE-related Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and emergency preparedness and response. With financial support from USAID OFDA, coordination is assured by LACRO, in close collaboration with other development partners. GRIN-LAC also works closely with the Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC) to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response programmes by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership.
GRIN-LAC has explored some innovative approaches to directly engage national NiE focal points. While most countries have people in charge of national nutrition programmes, many had not identified NiE as a priority area, or group emergency-related activities under civil protection or other mechanisms. A lot of effort went into mapping existing NiE focal points and, where these were missing, advocating for the need to appoint a specific person with adequate qualifications.
Since the region covers 36 countries, GRIN-LAC relies on three sub-regional support groups (Central America, South America and the Caribbean) to respond better to the specific needs of the different contexts. The three groups, including the national focal points, UN agencies, NGOs and other key NiE stakeholders, have quarterly webinars, an online document depository and a Facebook page for more rapid news-sharing.
In the past, regional NiE-related initiatives were very sporadic and involved a limited number of participants, while now representatives from 32 countries are regularly engaged and have initiated concrete improvements. These regional andsub-regional coordination and support mechanisms have been very well received and have strengthened partnerships across sectors, stakeholders and governments. They have also facilitated the exchange of information and the systematisation of best practices and lessons learned and ensured greater effectiveness, predictability and accountability of NiE preparedness and response in LAC.
The GRIN-LAC Matrix
A major challenge in the development of the GRIN-LAC approach has been the lack of a standardised definition of what NiE preparedness and response should be in LAC. To address this, LACRO has proposed a tool (GRIN-LAC Matrix) for the development of a standardised definition across countries in LAC of minimum NiE preparedness and response capacity to be used as a baseline, allowing for the prioritisation of countries for support and monitoring progress over time.
The Matrix goes beyond simple hazard and risk analysis to examine specific nutrition-related vulnerabilities and capacities at the country level. It is intended to:
- Generate a model for defining minimum preparedness and response capacity for NiE at the national and regional level in a standardised way, and monitor progress over time;
- Develop a common understanding of preparedness and response capacity (for resource mobilisation, planning and promotion);
- Improve the quality of regional and country-level nutrition data; and
- Identify gaps and facilitate convergence of efforts to increase resilience.
The GRIN-LAC matrix covers 32 countries in the LAC region and works at the national level by combining the values and indicators already included in the three dimensions of the INFORM model1 (Hazards Exposure, Vulnerability and Lack of Coping Capacity) with 12 nutrition-specific indicators. The additional indicators constitute 40% of the model and are grouped under the vulnerability and capacity categories. The additional nutrition indicators included in the GRIN-LAC matrix are intended to complement the one currently measured through the INFORM model, as well as add an additional level of analysis relevant to NiE. This is not an exhaustive list but a minimum set intended to capture some key aspects influencing country preparedness and response capacity.
The GRIN-LAC Matrix allows us to achieve a consensual starting point for the convergence of efforts and the monitoring of progress over time. The Matrix has been widely welcomed by regional and national counterparts and other partners and the model is also being adapted by other sectors in LACRO (e.g. WASH and education).
GRIN-LAC web page hosted by OCHA-REDHUM, main document repository, including capacity building materials; GRIN-LAC’s Facebook page.
1 INFORM is a collaboration of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Team for Preparedness and Resilience and the European Commission; more information can be found here
More like this
FEX: Regional overview of emergency nutrition preparedness in Latin America and the Caribbean
View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici By Yvette Fautsch Macías and Stefano Fedele Yvette Fautsch Macías is Nutrition Specialist...
NEX: Improving emergency nutrition preparedness and response in the Latin America and Caribbean region
Yvette Fautsch Macías is a consultant on Nutrition in Emergencies with UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean region. Stefano Fedele is the Regional Nutrition Specialist at...
NEX: Nutrition coordination mechanisms: the whats, whys and wherefores
View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Stefano Fedele, UNICEF Regional Nutrition Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), is the...
FEX: Regional Perspective: Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)
Yvette Fautsch Macías is a Nutrition Specialist at the UNICEF Regional Office for the LAC Regional Office (LACRO) Paula Veliz is a Regional Nutrition Specialist at...
en-net: Request for Proposals for Institutional Consultancy to conduct a Nutr and WASH resilience-focused analysis in Corredor Seco
Dear Colleagues, UNICEF's Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office (LACRO) is pleased to announce a Request for Proposals for a resilience-focused analysis on the responses...
en-net: Nutrition in Emergencies Consultancy - UNICEF East Asia Pacific Regional Office
The Nutrition Section, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Office is seeking an individual consultant to provide technical support to strengthen the capacities of UNICEF nutrition...
en-net: Nutrition in Emergencies consultant, UNICEF East Asia Pacific Regional Office
The Nutrition Section, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Office is seeking an individual consultant for 11 months to provide technical support to strengthen the capacities of UNICEF...
FEX: Building national capacities for emergency nutrition preparedness and response in East Asia and the Pacific
View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici By Mueni Mutunga, Caroline Abla, Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera and Sri Sukotjo Mueni Mutunga is a regional...
View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Dear readers, In July 2019, we produced a special edition of Field Exchange (issue 60) on continuum of...
NEX: Améliorer la préparation et la réponse nutritionnelles d’urgence dans la région Amérique Latine et Caraïbes
Yvette Fautsch Macías est consultante en nutrition dans les situations d'urgence auprès de l'UNICEF dans la région Amérique latine et...
FEX: Issue 6 of Nutrition Exchange now available
The sixth edition of ENN's publication, Nutrition Exchange, is now available in English, with French, Arabic and Spanish editions coming soon. Nutrition Exchange contains...
FEX: Aperçu de la préparation aux situations d’urgence nutritionnelle en Amérique latine et aux Caraïbes
Read an English version of this article here Par Yvette Fautsch Macías et Stefano Fedele Yvette Fautsch Macías est nutritionniste au Bureau régional de...
FEX: Nutrition in health response in emergencies: WHO perspectives and developments
By Zita Weise Prinzo, Adelheid Onyango, Dr Ferima-Coulibaly Zerbo, Hana Bekele, Dr Ngoy Nsenga and Adelheid Marschang View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en...
FEX: UNICEF regional perspectives on complementary feeding
Introduction Effective and appropriate complementary feeding strategies are integral to meeting global nutrition targets. Such strategies must consider persistent...
FEX: Philippines Nutrition Cluster: lessons learnt from the response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)
By Aashima Garg, Andrew Rene Bucu and Rene Gerald Garela Aashima Garg is Nutrition Specialist based in UNICEF New York. At the time of writing, she was Nutrition Manager with...
FEX: Prioritising Emergency Response Preparedness: Global Nutrition Cluster supports countries to plan for potential humanitarian crises
View this article as a pdf Anteneh Gebremichael Dobamo is a Deputy Global Nutrition Cluster Coordinator and leads the operational support team at the Global Nutrition Cluster...
FEX: Nutrition response in Syria: UNICEF’s perspective
By James Kingori, Dr Hayder Nasser, Muhiadin Abdullahi and Dr Khaldoun Al-Asaad James Kingori is the UNICEF Regional Nutrition Specialist for UNICEF's Middle East and Northern...
FEX: The impact of the NiE regional training initiative: the Lebanon experience 2010-2014
By Hala Ghattas (American University of Beirut), Linda Shaker Berbari (International Orthodox Christian Charities) & Omar Obeid (American University of Beirut). Hala Ghattas...
FEX: Cluster coordination in a government-led emergency response in Ethiopia
By Amal Tucker Brown, Orla Mary O'Neill and Ki Yeon Yoon View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Amal Tucker Brown has worked for UNICEF since...
FEX: Review of tools developed by the Global Nutrition Cluster
Summary of review1 In 2005, following a review of humanitarian response capacity, the Cluster Approach2 was established by the Emergency Relief Coordinator and endorsed by the...
Reference this page
Stefano Fedele and Rebecca Olson (). Innovative regional approaches to improving Nutrition in Emergency (NiE) preparedness and response capacity from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Nutrition Exchange 6, May 2016. p9. www.ennonline.net/nex/6/nutritioninemergency