Nutrition in emergencies: WFP experiences and challenges

Food Nutr Bull. 2006 Mar;27(1):57-66. doi: 10.1177/156482650602700109.


WFP and its partners have made significant strides in the last decade towards tackling malnutrition in emergencies. Since malnutrition is an important determinant of mortality, food interventions play a key role in saving lives through their impact on the nutrition and health of affected populations. Humanitarian interventions aiming to prevent the deterioration, or promote recovery, of nutritional status have to be carefully tailored to the nature of each crisis and seek to address underlying causes. There are three elements crucial to successful action: Ensuring that a nutritionally-appropriate food basket is formulated to meet local needs, that it arrives on time and in coordinated fashion (not one commodity one month, another the next). Some food commodities are needed in small amounts (iodized salt and fortified blended foods) but their inclusion and delivery are often critical to positive nutrition outcomes. The importance of micronutrients in achieving the goals of emergency operations is increasingly well-understood and there is evidence of the need for greater use of fortified foods than in the past. Coupling food with essential nonfood inputs is important in nutrition programming. Cash resources are required by WFP for a variety of nutrition and public health activities, including local milling/fortification of cereals, local procurement of fortified blended foods, and support for complementary activities such as nutrition education, training, and deworming. An ability to offer sustained improvements in nutrition will depend on strong collaboration with partners skilled in nutrition and public health, including information management. Better linking of emergency programming with nonemergency activities is required so that underlying processes contributing to serious malnutrition are effectively tackled in the long run.

Publication types

  • Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Food Supply
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / mortality
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Sciences* / education
  • Public Health*
  • United Nations / organization & administration*


  • Micronutrients