NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS
“Emergency” may be defined as any serious disruption of the functioning of a society that exceeds the ability of an affected people to cope solely by means of its own resources in relation to time.
Nutrition emergency is an exceptional and widespread threat to life, health and basic subsistence, which is beyond the coping capacity of individuals and the community. Cases can be moderate or complex. In complex emergency a major humanitarian crisis of a multi causal nature, essentially from internal or external conflict and this requires an international response that extends beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency.
There are more than 50 million people in the world who are affected by war or civil conflict and countless others who are affected by floods, droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. A large number of these people depend on external assistance for at least a part of the duration of their displacement. Joint efforts form governments, (national, local, and bilateral), non-governmental organizations, international government organizations, and the United Nations to aid in provision of nutritional support to these affected populations at one time or another can go a long way to alleviate this condition. However, without the benefit of appropriately trained nutritional experts, this support could be poorly provided.
READ THIS: The Effect Of Coaching And Mentoring In Career Progression – 9ja (Naija) Nurses
Recently, north-east which include Yobe, Kaduna, Maidguri, Borno and kano states located in the northern Nigeria have experienced communal clashes, insurgencies, banditry and these have led to killings, destruction of properties and consequently people are being displaced from their places of residence. This political upheaval has informed scarcity in general, hence inflation especially but not limited to food stuffs in the region understudy.
Emergency nutrition is a specialization for strengthening the training and research capacities of developing countries in which Nigeria is one amongst others, to meet nutritional needs during natural and man-made disasters. Efforts should be made to prevent famines, especially those arising from natural disasters. However, there will be less food available in the future when this occurs. It is important to train nutritionists, administrators, policy and decision makers, and others to be able to prioritize food needs and make the best use of available resources.
Institutional capacity-building and training must also include meeting the nutritional needs of populations during disasters. This requires competence in a new specialization, “emergency nutrition.”
However, the donor agencies should not become complacent about their ability to provide assistance during emergencies. It is predicted that there will be less food available for such purposes in the future, even though new emergency situations are constantly developing and tend to last longer.
READ THIS: NURSING ROUND A MUST-TO-DO IN THIS SCIENTIFIC ERA
These factors present a growing challenge to relief delivery services both cost-effectively and efficiently. To meet this challenge, it will be necessary to create a critical mass of nutritional experts – administrators, doctors, and other health workers who are able to assess and prioritize food needs and to make decisions about the best use of available resources. In order to equip nutritionists with the knowledge and skills required to carry out such responsibilities, it is necessary to identify, develop, and strengthen methodologies, techniques, expertise, and even theoretical frameworks that can be used in training programmes.
The first step in positioning ourselves to meet these challenges is to improve existing human resource capacity by initiating specific training opportunities for those already involved in the administration of emergency nutrition services, i.e., policy makers, technical experts, and fieldworkers. Policy and decision makers must be among those targeted for training, because without their informed support, nutritional experts may not be included in emergency teams. It is essential that members of emergency nutrition teams be trained in the skills necessary to define objectives, reach consensus, and carry out effective advocacy.
Major causes of nutrition emergencies include the following:
A natural disaster due to climatic or other environmental conditions such as drought, flooding, major storms, or insects infestation such as locusts; global warning might also contribute to an increase in droughts and floods.
Armed conflict, war or political upheaval.
Disruption or collapse of the food distribution network and/or the marketing system of a population. This might be the result of an environmental, political or economic crisis.
Global food prices and fluctuations hence, inflation.
Extreme poverty of marginalized populations e.g the elderly and urban slum populations who have poor access to water, health care and livelihoods.
In emergency situations, food intake may be compromised in a number of ways, thus:
- By reducing local food availability and household access to food (physical destruction, destruction of infrastructure),
- By affecting food preparation practices and food safety due to insecurity and/or a lack of access to water, firewood, electricity.
- By adversely affecting caring capacity and the feeding of young children
- By weakening or removing previously existing coping strategies (e.g. migration, casual labour)
- By necessitating destructive and extreme coping options e.g. family break-up, theft, prostitution, asset disposal.
Conclusively, it is worthy of note that multiple forms of malnutrition present in the context of crisis such as wasting, severe stunting, micro and macronutrient deficiencies, and eventually death could hit the victims if they are not helped . One quick and cost effective way to meet these challenges and make progress is to include relevant indicators in the monitoring of food and agriculture based projects.
READ ALSO: Patient Care: The Role Of Nurses in discharged Planning
I, therefore recommend that concerned agencies should be empowered with resources to act as matter of urgency to provide nutritional supplements to vulnerable individuals with preformed nutrient materials from fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, calcium-rich dairy products, and protein-rich foods such as meats, fish, and legumes. This should be done with a sole priority:
- To save lives
- To maintain or improve health/nutritional status with special attention to pregnant and lactating women and other groups at high risk
- To preserve productive assets
- To prevent mass migration
- To ensure access to an adequate diet for all population groups
- To establish conditions for and promote rehabilitation and the restoration of self-reliance.
Writer: CHIMA IFESINACHI DANIEL