Emergency Nutrition – Feeding the displaced
Waking up to the news of the Makurdi flood in Benue state was devastating, knowing the impact on both individuals and communities. Statistic reveals that over 110,000 people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the flood which has social, economic and environmental consequences.
The immediate impact of floods is the loss of lives, damage to properties and deterioration of health; which can be caused by hunger, unhygienic conditions and no access to clean drinking water. Most importantly, hunger sets in which makes nutrition an issue.
Consequently, access to food and adequate nutrition is critical to survival in an emergency situation. Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties (World Food Conference Declaration, Rome). It is noteworthy that malnutrition can be the most serious public health problem in an emergency. Therefore, a food emergency exists if a shortage of food supplies is not replaced in the short term by food aid.
A large number of these people depend on external assistance for at least a part of the duration of their displacement. There are inevitable delays in, receiving donations, transport, and formation of the distribution system as we have seen so far in Benue. Governments, non-governmental organizations, international government organization and the United Nations all provide nutritional support to these populations at one time or another.
In addition, deficiencies of iodine, vitamin A and iron are common in emergency-affected populations which result in health issues like scurvy, pellagra and beriberi.
However, without the involvement of appropriately trained nutritional experts, to deliver the right type of foods during emergencies. this support is often poorly provided and in most cases defeats the purpose. There has to be justification for initiating and phasing down food assistance. Also, the food security of the host population must be taken into account.
Going forward it is imperative that all hands must be on deck when a disaster happens particularly in regards to Emergency Nutrition.
World Health Organization. The management of nutrition in major emergencies. 2000